Edmonton

'All he did was scream': Father reacts to video of police officer dropping a knee onto son

A video circulating on social media shows an Edmonton police officer dropping his knee into the back of a man lying on the ground.

Alberta Justice says Calgary prosecutors are reviewing the file

Crown investigating Edmonton Police Service arrest video

CBC News Edmonton

1 year ago
1:41
A video circulating on social media shows an Edmonton police officer dropping his knee into the back of a man lying on the ground in August 2019. 1:41

The man shown lying on the ground as an Edmonton police officer drops his knee into his back during an arrest was homeless at the time, according to his father.

In the video from August 2019, Elliot McLeod is lying still, face down, and it appears his arms are being held behind his back by an officer who is kneeling beside him. A second officer approaches and suddenly drops, driving his knee into the man's upper back.

McLeod, who according to his father is a member of Bigstone Cree Nation, screams in pain and begs them to stop.

"Do not run from the police," one officer shouts at him. "Did you think I wouldn't catch you?"

The video, filmed by a member of the public, was shared with police shortly after the incident. Nearly a year later, Alberta Justice confirmed Monday that the case remains under review by Crown prosecutors to determine if any charges should be laid.

Terry McLeod said he was heartbroken and angry after watching a video of an Edmonton police officer dropping his knee into his son's back during an August 2019 arrest. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Terry McLeod watched the video of his son's arrest for the first time on Monday afternoon and said it breaks his heart and makes him angry.

"My son could not defend himself. All he did was scream, scream for help, cry for help," he said.

"It's not revenge I'm after, but justice to be done, so others will not have to go through that same treatment that my son went through because they could be killed."

He said his son told him about the arrest and being injured by police, but he didn't provide much detail. The father was recovering from a surgery and his son told him he would tell him about it later.

"He came in there with a bruised head, black eyes, cuts on his head," he said.

Court records show that Elliot McLeod, 33, has a lengthy criminal record and is currently in custody awaiting trial after being charged in a second-degree murder case earlier this year.

His father described his son as compassionate, kind, and helpful, but said that after moving to Edmonton a few years ago to help a family member he started to have problems with drugs and alcohol, and became homeless. 

Natasha Wright, who shared the video on Facebook on Friday — the same day an estimated 10,000 people rallied at the Alberta Legislature calling for the end of systemic racism against Black communities and violence by police — said her friend filmed it on Aug. 27, 2019, and sent it to her.

The friend started filming when a police car drove up on a sidewalk in pursuit of the man in the video. 

The friend was afraid to file a report with police because he is Indigenous and was worried about repercussions, Wright said. She filed a complaint on Aug. 28, 2019, and after speaking to an officer a week later never heard anything further.

'An objective review'

In an emailed statement, an Edmonton Police Service spokesperson confirmed EPS was made aware of the video in August 2019, and that it was submitted to the professional standards branch for investigation.

"Following the completion of that investigation, the EPS professional standards branch referred the matter to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) to determine if criminal charges are warranted against the responding police officers," Carolin Maran said.

"As it remains with Alberta Crown Prosecution Service at this time, we are unable to comment further." 

In its statement on Monday, Alberta Justice said the file had been sent to the Calgary Crown prosecutor's office for review.

"Consulting with an independent Crown office outside the community is part of ACPS' regular process to ensure an objective review of the investigation report," spokesperson Carla Jones said in an email. 

Wright said she wanted to give police a chance to hold the officers accountable, and she's still hopeful that could happen. She said current conversations about racial injustice and denials that Canada has a racism problem prompted her to share the video publicly. 

"I've been protesting for Indigenous rights, for human rights and for Black Lives Matter. And a lot of people are saying it doesn't happen here, and I just shared it to kind of prove that point. That it kind of happens everywhere," she said Monday.

'Unanswered questions'

Edmonton criminal defence lawyer Zack Elias viewed the video, and described it as "deplorable."

 "It confirmed for me something that my clients have been telling me all along. And that's that there's systemic racism within the Edmonton Police Service."

He also said it's troubling that the investigation hasn't been finalized and findings made public.

"We don't know who this officer is, whether or not they're still working, whether they're suspended with or without pay. There's so many unanswered questions for something that is clearly police misconduct," he said.

The video of Elliot's arrest surfaced amidst other local cases of alleged police violence.

  • Earlier this month, Edmonton police defended a video that surfaced showing an officer kneeling on the neck of a Black man. The video surfaced after the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes, sparking outrage and widespread protest in the United States and around the world.
  • On Saturday, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), which acts as the province's police watchdog, announced it would investigate after Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam made allegations that Wood Buffalo RCMP officers beat and arrested him in a Fort McMurray parking lot earlier this year
  • On Monday, ASIRT held a news conference to announce that two Alberta RCMP officers had been charged with criminal negligence causing death in connection to the 2018 shooting death of a 31-year-old man near Whitecourt, Alta.

On Monday, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer issued a statement saying that in response to concerns about police brutality in Alberta and elsewhere he would expedite work to modernize the Police Act.

"At the earliest opportunity, we will be meeting with the chiefs of police, First Nations, minority community leaders, and other stakeholders to work collaboratively to accelerate this effort," Schweitzer said. "We also call on the federal minister of public safety to review the legislation and regulations governing the RCMP to address the concerns of Canadians."

Terry McLeod said he understands the anger that people are feeling about incidents of police violence against minorities, and that he thinks what the officers did to his son was cowardly.

"I'm pretty sure when they went to school for their training to help and to serve. And I truly believe what I see today wasn't them serving. It was them hurting another human being," he said. "And I'm pretty sure they did not get an approval from the government or a certificate to hurt other people. He's a human being. He's not an animal."

The father said he planned to visit his son on Tuesday.

"I just want to hug him and love him and say 'I'm sorry that I wasn't there, that I couldn't be there,'" the father said. "I wish I was there."

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