Officers stopped complainant in police assault case 'primarily because I'm black,' tribunal hears

The main complainant in a Toronto police disciplinary hearing for two officers accused of assaulting him when he was 15 testified for second day Friday, telling the tribunal he had been stopped by police around 60 times before the incident in 2011.

Main complainant was 15 at the time of the incident in 2011

The main complainant accusing two Toronto officers of assaulting him when he was 15 testified for second day Friday at a police disciplinary hearing, telling the tribunal he had been stopped by police around 60 times before the incident in 2011.    

"Primarily because I'm black," he said.

"This is just how it is. It's a reality," said the 20-year-old, whose name can't be published because he was 15 at the time of the incident.

The complainant testified those previous interactions with officers were always respectful, even friendly, including two times where he was cautioned for shoplifting. 

"It's never been a situation where it's me against the police," he told the hearing

But he testified that it was a different experience on Nov. 21, 2011, when Const. Adam Lourenco and Const. Scharnil Pais approached him, his brother and two friends.

Lourenco is charged with two counts of discreditable conduct in connection with the incident that followed. Both he and Pais are also charged with unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority. 

The complainant said the officers boxed them in as the teens were on their way to a Pathways to Education program in their Neptune Drive neighbourhood.

What allegedly followed is how the teens would become known as the "Neptune Four."

"Were you or any your brother friends engaged in criminal activity?" the complainant's lawyer Jeff Carolin asked him.

"No," he replied.

At the time of incident, the complainant said, he had recently learned about his rights through the Ontario Justice Education Network.  He told the tribunal Friday he asked Lourenco if they were under arrest and that Lourenco said "no."

He testified he asked if they were free to go and when the officer didn't respond, he took a step to walk away.

The complainant alleges that Constable Adam Lourenco assaulted him. he said “what I think happened to me was wrong and I don’t think it should happen again.” (Pam Davies)

That's when, he told the hearing, the officer attacked him, grabbing him, pushing him back and punching him in the midsection and in the face. 

When his brother and friends moved towards Lourenco and told him to stop, the complainant said the officer pulled his gun and threatened to shoot them.

He testified that Pais told the other teens to sit down and ignored their pleas to stop what was happening. 

Blood stains

Afterwards, the young man said, Lourenco holstered his gun, cut his thumb on his utility belt and said, "'Look, now you've assaulted a police officer.

The complainant testified Lourenco then wiped his injured thumb "on my back."   

The white vest the complainant was wearing that evening was brought to the hearing for him to show the tribunal.

Using a red marker, he circled the spot where he alleged Lourenco dragged his bloody thumb.

The young man told the hearing he was on his stomach and Lourenco was pressing his face into the ground, continuing to insult him, calling him "a bitch" and "a wannabe gangster."

Later as the officer was taking him to the police car, he testified that  Lourenco slammed the car door on his legs twice. 

The complainant was charged with assaulting police, and threatening death.  He was held in a jail cell overnight.

He said while in custody he was never given an opportunity to make a phone call and was never told he could contact his mother or a lawyer.

He also said he unknowingly gave a statement to a detective believing she was a lawyer provided to him because she was dressed in a suit.

All the charges against him, his brother and his friends were eventually withdrawn.

Cross examination

During cross examination, Lourenco's lawyer Lawrence Gridin questioned the complainant's credibility, saying there were numerous things "that I intend to impeach him on."

Gridin asked the young man about allegations he made that he was strip searched and that two officers made inappropriate sexual comments.

The complainant refused to say what those comments were Friday because he said it made him uncomfortable. 

Gridin has asked the hearing officer to demand that the complainant answer that question and give counsel the opportunity to have those officers testify.

A decision on that is expected next week.

The main complainant will be back to continue with his cross-examination on Wednesday. Two of the other complainants are expected to testify on Monday and Tuesday. 

About the Author

Makda Ghebreslassie

CBC Toronto reporter

Makda is a CBC Video-Journalist, who from time to time fills in as TV news anchor and a newsreader on Here and Now and Fresh Air. She worked in newsrooms in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor before moving back home to Toronto.