Journalist arrested by Hamilton officer sues police after 'violent' arrest

A TV journalist is suing Hamilton police for nearly $1 million, saying he suffered "significant pain" when he was arrested last year at the scene of a fatal crash.

Jeremy Cohn, a camera operator for Global News, was detained for 45 minutes at a crash scene last year

Video shows one of two cameramen who were arrested at the scene where a young girl died in Hamilton in 2017. 1:23

A TV journalist is suing Hamilton police for nearly $1 million, saying he suffered "significant pain" when he was arrested last year at the scene of a fatal crash.

Jeremy Cohn, a Global News TV camera operator, is seeking $700,000 for negligence, false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery and "intentional infliction of mental suffering," says a statement of claim filed Thursday.

​He's also seeking $200,000 in punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages.

His civil suit names the Hamilton police services board and Const. Jeffrey Todoruck. Hamilton Police Service couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, nor could the police board chair.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

This screen cap from a video at the scene shows Jeremy Cohn being arrested. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

The suit comes after a tense incident last May 16 when video showed Todoruck arresting Cohn and freelancer Dave Ritchie at the scene of a fatal Waterdown crash.

A video from the scene shows Todoruck pinning Cohn to the ground and cuffing him with zip ties, then pulling him to a police vehicle.

"During this takedown, Const. Todoruck pressed his knees into Mr. Cohn's back and then straddled Mr. Cohn with his full body weight, causing Mr. Cohn to experience significant pain and inability to move," the claim says. "At no time did Mr. Cohn resist arrest; he was cooperative throughout the entire process."

Cohn sat in the police vehicle for 45 minutes before a police sergeant intervened, the claim says. Cohn was released without charges.

'A verbally aggressive and hostile manner'

The incident began when Cohn arrived at the Evans Road scene where a 10-year-old girl was hit and killed by a vehicle. When Cohn got there, the lawsuit says, Ritchie was already being held in the back of a police vehicle.

Ritchie was "shaking, pale and having trouble breathing," according to Cohn's claim.

The girl had already been taken to hospital and there was no police tape, says the claim, filed by lawyers at the Toronto firm Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn.

Cohn walked up to the vehicle and talked to Ritchie through the open window. The claim says that's when Todoruck approached Cohn in "a verbally aggressive and hostile manner" and told Cohn to leave.

Canadian Journalists For Free Expression called for an "immediate inquiry" after two camera operators were arrested. Dave Ritchie is shown here in the back of police vehicle. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

Cohn called a Hamilton police media relations officer, who told him to stay calm and keep shooting the scene like he normally would, the statement says. They talked on speaker phone so Ritchie could hear through the window.

When officers put up police tape, Cohn stayed behind it "at all material times," the claim says. Cohn called the media relations officer again, and the officer asked to speak to Ritchie.

When Cohn approached the police vehicle with his phone, the claim says, Todoruck "violently grabbed Mr. Cohn by the arm and told him that he was under arrest."

Freelancer negotiated settlement

Ritchie was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer. Ritchie "accepted responsibility" in a negotiated settlement in October, and the Crown dropped the charges.

Cohn has since suffered stiffness, insomnia, and depression, among other symptoms, the claim says. He's also anxious when he goes to police scenes, which has hindered his ability to do his job.

Chief Eric Girt said last May that he'd review the incident, although police declined to comment in the fall on the results of that review.

In an October media release, the service said it would "continue to work collaboratively with our media partners in order to deliver public safety in our community."

The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression also called for the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to investigate further.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca