Black man handcuffed while getting into his own car suing Montreal police for $125K

Brice Dossa was wrongfully arrested and handcuffed by police officers who didn't identify themselves. Then they couldn't find the keys to uncuff him. Dossa is now suing Montreal police and the two officers for $125,000.

Officers couldn't find keys to uncuff Brice Dossa, in incident captured on video

Brice Dossa standing in front of his silver car.
Brice Dossa is suing Montreal police service and two of its officers for $125,000. He says he was humiliated and traumatized when officers kept him in handcuffs for 15 minutes after they realized they'd arrested him by mistake. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

A Montreal man, Brice Dossa, is suing the city's police force and two of its officers for $125,000 after he was wrongfully arrested and handcuffed last November while getting into his own car by two undercover officers who didn't identify themselves, then couldn't find the keys to uncuff Dossa after they realized their mistake.

Part of the incident was captured on cellphone video and shared widely online. 

The video shows a clearly frustrated Dossa berating the officers as they finally uncuff him, after he was forced to wait 15 minutes while they located the keys.

"Two police officers with no uniform, no badge, just roughed him, cuffed him and then arrested him because they said it was a stolen car," Fernando Belton, Dossa's lawyer, said in an interview with CBC Wednesday.

WATCH | Brice Dossa asks police officers if they handcuffed him because he is Black:

Video shows man wrongly detained after police suspect him of stealing his own car

11 months ago
Duration 1:00
Brice Dossa was detained by Montreal police for the theft of a car that ended up being his own. He then waited in handcuffs for 15 minutes because the officers didn't have the key to release him.

"It was a really humiliating experience for him," said Belton.

Montreal police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The allegations have yet to be tested in court.

In a tweet following the incident, Montreal police said the officers believed the car was stolen because they saw damage near the locks typical of stolen cars. 

Police said the officers were in the process of verifying if the car was stolen when they saw Dossa approaching the vehicle, and so they detained him temporarily while they finished their verifications.

CBC was able to independently verify after the incident that Dossa's car was new and there was no visible damage around the locks.

"We think racial profiling played a role in that arrest, in how fast the arrest went down and how little verification was done before he was arrested," said Belton.

Dossa diagnosed with PTSD after incident

The lawsuit filed Tuesday names the City of Montreal, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and two officers, Simon Thibault-Pelletier and Simon Bolduc, as defendants.

The suit claims the officers racially profiled Dossa, illegally arrested and detained him, used excessive force and were disrespectful.

Belton says Dossa, originally from Bénin, was traumatized by the incident and the aftermath.

Man looks onward
Dossa's lawyer, Fernando Belton, told CBC officers were 'nonchalant' after Dossa's arrest and offered no explanation or apology. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

"You have to understand he's never had the spotlight on him, and then this case was all over the news and he was recognized even by people in his home country," said Belton.

The lawyer said after the video went viral on social media, many people questioned why Dossa appeared upset.

"You have people who were saying:  'It's nothing, you know, you've been arrested, you'll be cuffed. Why don't you just get over it?'" said Belton.

"I think those kind of comments tend to undermine the issue of racial profiling and the trauma it can leave," he said.

Belton said Dossa, who was working full time as an orderly and part time as an Uber driver at the time of of the incident, was diagnosed with PTSD afterward. He missed two months of work after his doctor told him to take time off.

Dossa has no family in Canada. He travelled to Bénin in February to get emotional support from his parents, a trip Belton said he would not have taken if not for the arrest.

Dossa is seeking $20,000 in damages for lost income and travel costs, $30,000 for stress and inconvenience, $15,000 for pain and suffering, and $30,000 from each of the officers in punitive damages.

No apology

Belton said what was particularly frustrating for Dossa at the time was the way the officers behaved after they realized the car was his and they'd made a mistake.

"No apologies, just a nonchalant attitude which said: 'Why don't you calm down?  Why don't you relax?'" Belton said.

WATCH | 'I was traumatized, humiliated,' Brice Dossa says:

'I'm scared of police,' Brice Dossa says after wrongful handcuffing in Montreal

11 months ago
Duration 2:48
Brice Dossa describes the moment he was handcuffed by plainclothes officers who didn't have the key to release him once they found out his car in fact belongs to him, an incident he says left him traumatized and humiliated.

Belton said the officers should have apologized on the spot.

"It means that you understand that there's a human at the end of the process that's been hurt, and that there's a problem in the way he was treated," he said.

"I don't think apologies should come after a settlement has been made, after a payment has been made, after a lawsuit," Belton said. 

"When it comes early in the process, it helps people to move on," he said.

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.

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Steve Rukavina


Steve Rukavina has been with CBC News in Montreal since 2002. In 2019, he won a RTDNA award for continuing coverage of sexual misconduct allegations at Concordia University. He's also a co-creator of the podcast, Montreapolis. Before working in Montreal he worked as a reporter for CBC in Regina and Saskatoon. You can reach him at