New details revealed in a Brockville court on Thursday point to the possibility that the events leading to Damian Sobieraj’s death may have been more violent than originally thought.
Through witness testimony heard over the last two weeks, mostly from the group of youths who were in Hardy Park on the night of Sobieraj’s death — Sept. 13, 2018 — the court learned that Sobieraj reportedly became involved that night in a confrontation with the group after a few teens ripped branches off a tree and started hitting its trunk.
Although it’s unclear exactly what happened between Sobieraj and the teens, at one point, the altercation led some of the youths and the man, who had gone to the park with his dog, to the side of the water.
Over the last week, several youths testified that a then-14-year-old girl from the group pushed Sobieraj into the water. The now-15-year-old, who cannot be identified because of her age, is on trial for manslaughter.
The teens who have testified have told much of the same story, that once Sobieraj was in the water, he called for help, yet none of the teens came to his rescue.
The next day, Brockville police officers, who were originally called to the park the night before by Sobieraj reporting a disturbance, found his body in the St. Lawrence River.
In late October 2018, after weeks of investigation and rumours of a teen gang terrorizing the city, Brockville police charged the teen girl with Sobieraj’s death.
On Thursday, the seventh day of the trial, one of the youngest witnesses to take the stand told the court that an altercation involving Sobieraj and the group of youths turned physical.
He said the group got into a shouting match with Sobieraj, which escalated to the point that one of the youths pushed the 33-year-old man.
The witness said Sobieraj called 911 and the group scattered throughout Hardy Park.
The youth told the court that Sobieraj followed him and his friends to the Brock Trail boardwalk, where things turned violent.
“He swung me around by my shirt,” the young witness said.
The witness said another youth holding a stick swung it at Sobieraj.
“I don’t remember if it hit him,” the youth told the court.
According to the autopsy, Sobieraj sustained injuries to his back, a bruise on his chest and a fat lip. Crown counsel Alan Findley suggested these injuries could have come from branches the youths were holding at the time Sobieraj confronted them.
Notably, this was the first time in two weeks that testimony touched on the potential cause of Sobieraj’s injuries.
Another youth witnesses testified on Thursday, who said they were also near the boardwalk when the altercation occurred.
The second youth, like all the other witnesses, said it culminated when the accused ran toward Sobieraj and pushed him in the river.
One witness said she heard a splash and ran, while the other said he saw Sobieraj in the river treading water.
More witness testimony is scheduled for Friday morning.