A cut in the head so deep the skull is exposed tends to attract attention, at a gas station or anywhere else. So last January, when a bleeding Jason Brunelle started tanking up his car near Bassano, Alta., 140 km east of Calgary, an Esso attendant felt compelled to ask what might have happened. Brunelle, then 24 and from an RCMP family (his father is retired from the force), had a compelling story to tell. Too bad it may not have been true.
While driving along the Trans-Canada, Brunelle claimed, he had come across a car in trouble and stopped to help—only to receive a savage beating from three men armed with pipes and bottles. Brunelle said he fought off his assailants and fled before driving, bleeding and confused, into the Esso for gas.
Brunelle’s statement prompted police to collect fingerprints and DNA from his car and issue a press release. The story ricocheted across the country—“Good Samaritan will now turn blind eye after being beaten while lending a hand,” ran a National Post headline—and Brunelle demonstrated a knack for quotable quotes. “If there was a blond, half-naked chick running away from a guy with a chainsaw, I wouldn’t stop,” he told a reporter. “As callous and cold-hearted as it is to say, I just can’t put myself at risk anymore.” Many Canadians agreed, deciding good Samaritanism wasn’t such a good idea.
But last week, almost a year to the day after his “attack,” the RCMP accused him of fabricating the scuffle and charged him with public mischief. “I think at the time it probably started out as one of those big fish stories,” says RCMP Cpl. Donovan Fisher. (Brunelle told the Calgary Herald he’s sticking to his story.) The charge arrives only now because police have been busy investigating how Brunelle, who lives just outside Calgary, really came by his injuries—a scenario that may lead to even more serious charges.