Black University of Toronto student sues police over alleged assault, detention
January 16, 2023 By The Canadian Press
Jan. 16, 2023, Toronto, Ont. – A young Black man is suing Toronto police, alleging three officers tackled him, pressed a knee to his neck and repeatedly shot him with a stun gun, even as he pleaded he had done nothing wrong.
The case, his family said Monday, highlights the disproportionate use of force levelled against Black people and ongoing racial profiling by Toronto’s police force.
“Whether we like it or not, he is symbolic of the experiences endured by many young Black males in North America,” his mother Christine O’Gilvie said at a news conference.
A statement of claim filed in the Superior Court of Justice alleges 27-year-old Hasani O’Gilvie was assaulted by three Toronto police officers near a North York grocery store on his way to class at the University of Toronto in August 2021.
“This is a case of someone being assaulted for walking while Black,” his lawyer David Shellnutt said. “He looked like somebody who police allege they were looking for.”
Toronto police said they would not comment as the matter is before the courts, and the Toronto Police Association – which represents civilian and uniform members – says the officers are not commenting as the case is also before a review tribunal.
“In many cases, enforcement actions are met with resistance; not everyone wants to be arrested,” said Toronto Police Association president Jon Reid in a statement. “As these members face charges under the Police Services Act, the Association will ensure they are treated fairly throughout this process.”
According to the claim against the three officers, which was filed in June and has yet to be tested in court, O’Gilvie gave his name to an officer who stopped him for questioning after following him down a walkway near the grocery store. The claim alleges the officer did not believe him and drew a stun gun shortly before two other officers arrived.
O’Gilvie put his hands up and complied but the officers allegedly tackled him to the ground, the claim says. One officer then allegedly put his knee on his neck and repeatedly shot him with a stun gun while O’Gilvie “was subdued, not resisting, on the ground, and restraints being applied,” the claim alleges.
The claim alleges O’Gilvie was only released after the officers searched his bag and found identification proving what he told police.
“Regardless of mistaken identity of who they were looking for, that this matter ended up with a young U of T student with a knee on his neck, the same manoeuvre that killed George Floyd just a year prior, and being repeatedly stunned by the same officer who was doing that is unacceptable,” Shellnutt said.
O’Gilvie and his mother are seeking more than $1 million in damages. The claim states he continues to suffer severe emotional and psychological trauma from the alleged assault, which left him with facial scarring and injuries to his upper body.
O’Gilvie, who only returned to school last week, was not in a condition to speak at the news conference Monday, his family said.
The lawyer said the family decided to pursue the lawsuit after their calls for police accountability were met with silence.
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