Edmonton police say swarming, beating of Black teen not a hate crime

The beating of a 14-year-old Black boy in a north Edmonton schoolyard has been determined not to be a hate crime, Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said Thursday. 

Chief Dale McFee says attack was a 'consensual' playground fight

Pazo, an eighth-grade student at Rosslyn School in north Edmonton was attacked in the schoolyard on April 16. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The swarming of a 14-year-old Black boy by seven boys in a north Edmonton schoolyard was not a hate crime, police Chief Dale McFee said Thursday. 

McFee said the determination was made after interviewing students involved in the attack and consulting with the police service's hate crimes unit. 

"There is still not sufficient evidence that this event was motivated by hate bias or prejudice toward the complainant's race," he said. 

"As such, it does not currently meet the Criminal Code threshold for a hate-motivated crime.

"Instead, our investigation currently shows this began as a consensual schoolyard fight and was part of an ongoing dispute between a group of male youths that reportedly started late last year." 

The April 16 attack outside Rosslyn School was caught on video that circulated widely in the community. 

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee updated the media on Thursday about the attack on a Black student outside Rosslyn School on April 16. (Edmonton Police Service)

The Grade 8 student, who CBC News is only identifying by the name Pazo, was swarmed by seven other boys who are seen punching and kicking him. Someone was heard calling him the N-word during the attack. 

McFee said the slur was "highly inappropriate" but in itself did not constitute a hate crime. 

McFee said some of the students come from racialized communities and have received threats. He called for calm and called out social media posts he said have inflamed the situation.

"It's basically getting to the point where we're already convicting 12- and 14-year-old kids of hate-motivated crime, and we're prepared to put all of the wrath of the justice system on top of them to further traumatize them," he said. 

The investigation is still underway. No charges have yet been laid. 

'Consensual' wording called appalling

Local activists are taking issue with McFee's characterization of the fight as "consensual" since the teen was swarmed and beaten by seven other boys. 

"I don't know if we watched the same video, but Pazo didn't fight once. He didn't lift his hands in the video one time, even when he was being dragged by the neck," said Tiera Williams, founder of the anti-racism group A Fight For Equity.

"So I don't know when the consent began. Was it when he was thrown to the ground?"

"The second six other kids jump in, it's no longer consensual," she added. "The wording of it all is just appalling."

Alex Eskandarkhah, a Black business owner and activist, also takes issue with McFee's characterization of what happened to Pazo. 

"I've never seen a consensual fight with one on five, six, seven people," he said. "That's not consensual. If it's one-on-one, that's different. But we saw the film." 

Both Williams and Eskandarkhah said McFee's statements further undermine the trust Black and racialized communities have with the police; whether they will believed and treated fairly when they make a complaint. 

With hate crimes on the rise in Edmonton, Eskandarkhah said police need to send a message there will be zero tolerance for racially-motivated attacks.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.