MONTREAL — A Montreal man says he’s been left traumatized following an arrest by police north of the city in which he was allegedly dragged from a car by his hair and struck.
Samuel, who did not want to give his last name because he’s fearful of police, said the incident took place when he was in a car with two friends on May 25 — the same day George Floyd died in police custody in Minnesota, setting off anti-racism and anti-police protests.
A two-part video of the incident published online appears to shows a Laval police officer standing outside a car asking a male black passenger several times to get out of the vehicle, as the man asks why he’s under investigation.
“Put your hands on the vehicle,” one of two police officers is heard saying.
“For what reason?” the man answers.
After Samuel asks again why he’s being investigated, an officer responds, “if you don’t get out of the vehicle, I’ll arrest you for obstruction.”
Moments later, an officer can be seen reaching into the vehicle and dragging the man out onto the sidewalk by his dreadlocks.
The second video appears to show one officer striking the man as he and his partner kneel over him on the sidewalk, ordering him to stop resisting and to put his hands behind his back as the man claims he can’t because he’s being held.
Samuel said he was later released with a ticket for not obeying physical distancing rules.
He said he’s now “mentally suffering and traumatized” from the incident, which has left him afraid to go outside and run into police, and he is pursuing legal action against the city for what he believes is a racial profiling incident.
A spokeswoman for the Laval police said the video “doesn’t show everything,” including the reasons for the police stop. But she said the force can no longer comment because four complaints stemming from the incident have been filed to the police ethics board.
Sgt. Genevieve Major said the man could face charges of breaking probation, obstruction and assaulting a police officer, but it is up to the Crown prosecutor’s office to decide if charges are filed.
She pointed out the Laval police received eight racial profiling complaints out of 150,000 interventions in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available. Of those, three were ultimately investigated by the police ethics board.
“Mathematically speaking, in looking at the numbers, you can’t say one to three complaints per year investigated by police ethics represents a racial profiling problem,” Major said.
Virginie Dufresne-Lemire, one of the lawyers representing Samuel, says there were “many problematic elements” to her client’s arrest.
She said the brutality of the arrest, and especially pulling a person by their hair, is “completely unacceptable.”
“He was not aggressive, he was not violent, there are other methods you can use,” she said in a phone interview.
She said her firm is still analyzing the facts but will likely file a lawsuit seeking damages against the City of Laval on grounds that could include racial profiling, violation of dignity or excessive force.
Gunar Dube, a criminal lawyer who is also representing Samuel, said he intends to seek criminal charges against the police.
He believes the car was stopped on a “pretext” and any subsequent charges represent an attempt by police to justify their actions.
He noted the car was searched by police in the moments following the arrest, and nothing illegal was found.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020
The Canadian Press