An Ontario Provincial Police officer has filed a $6.3-million lawsuit against the Brantford Police Service and its board after facing charges — which were eventually dropped — related to an investigation into the theft of Wayne Gretzky memorabilia from the home of the hockey legend’s father.
The claim, recently filed in the Ottawa Superior Court of Justice, says Insp. June Dobson was charged by officers who were “blinded” by the fact the investigation was related to the Gretzky family, leading to a “woefully inadequate” investigation.
“Her everyday life has been impacted by the exacerbation of her PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], as well as now suffering from depression and anxiety,” reads the court document.
Dobson and her lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, declined to comment on the lawsuit, as did the BPS.
None of the claims have been tested or proven in court.
Police had ‘tunnel vision’
Gretzky, 62, is a Hockey Hall of Famer who set a slew of records and won numerous scoring and MVP titles. He had a two-decade playing career, including with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.
The statement of claim says Dobson and Wayne’s dad, Walter Gretzky, were close friends for years.
Walter had gifted Dobson an old Hespeler hockey stick that Wayne used while practising in the family’s backyard. Wayne signed the stick in 2014, the claim says.
In May 2019, Dobson sold some of her Gretzky memorabilia, including the stick, to Shawn Chaulk, a collector of Gretzky memorabilia. The claim says the collector “was satisfied with the authenticity” and stayed in contact with Dobson after the sale.
In September that year, police received a tip from a friend of Wayne’s family about a “substantial amount” of Gretzky memorabilia for sale online, spurring a joint investigation.
Police previously said officers arrested a 58-year-old Oakville, Ont., man and Dobson after a three-month probe, following the theft of a total of $500,000 US worth of memorabilia from Wayne’s home.
On Dec.7, 2020, Dobson was charged with fraud over $5,000 relating to the stick she sold. She was also charged with breach of trust because she was an OPP officer.
But both charges were withdrawn by the Crown on Aug. 12, 2021. Walter, 82, had died a few months earlier.
“The defendants had tunnel vision right from the beginning of the investigation,” the claim states. “They were blinded by the fact that the investigation involved the Gretzky family and Wayne Gretzky memorabilia.”
According to the claim, officers “relied solely” on statements by Walter and his children, despite the fact Walter was suffering from “steadily declining cognitive function for many years.”
The court documents state police interviewed Walter while he was in a hospital bed. When shown a picture of him holding the stick and a photocopy of the certificate of authenticity he signed, Walter couldn’t remember holding the stick or signing the certificate, they say.
The claim states police didn’t interview Chaulk, who has one of the world’s most extensive Gretzky collections. In fact, after learning Dobson was arrested, Chaulk told police he didn’t believe Dobson defrauded him, it says.
Also according to the claim, Brantford police were helped by OPP and the RCMP, so they are also liable.
Both the OPP and RCMP have declined to comment on the case.
Dobson’s life forever changed after charge
Dobson is on medical leave from work as she has been suffering from PTSD.
The statement of claim says her PTSD has worsened and she now lives with depression and anxiety.
“Since her arrest, she has had to take medication for high blood pressure, has been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and experienced migraines, all of which she did not experience before,” the claim reads.
“Dobson has also had to undergo dental surgery to correct damage caused by her grinding her teeth due to the stress of her arrest and criminal proceedings.”
Her reputation was also damaged, the lawsuit says, especially with heavy media coverage of her arrest.
Dobson had plans to work with the OPP until retirement and then begin an investigative business or consulting business — all of which fell apart, her lawsuit says.