'I was really traumatized,' says passenger from video of Montreal driver being pepper sprayed
Police investigating events which took place last Saturday on Ste-Catherine St.
The girlfriend of a man who was pepper sprayed by a Montreal police officer at close range last Saturday night says she is appalled at how they were treated.
Gertrude Dubois was in the car with her boyfriend, Daniel Louis, that night, and her account of what happened differs from what police have said.
"I'm shaking now just talking about it. I can't believe that in Montreal, that kind of thing can happen," she said.
Montreal police have opened an internal investigation into the incident, which was caught on cellphone video and posted to social media.
The video was shared thousands of times before being taken down. Dubois is not visible in the video, but police have confirmed she was present.
Dubois said it's not true that Louis refused to identify himself when officers approached him that night.
Police said her boyfriend was honking his car horn while sitting in traffic, and Dubois said many others were doing the same in the party atmosphere on Ste-Catherine Street during the Grand Prix.
"The event was festive, we enjoyed it like everyone else," she said.
According to Ian Lafrenière, head of police communications, bicycle officers asked Louis to identify himself so they could give him a ticket for excessive honking, but he would not.
A number of drivers were issued tickets for the same offence that night, he added.
When the officer approached them and asked for their papers, she said they asked why, since they were just taking in atmosphere.
She said the couple tried to have a "friendly, happy conversation with him," but the officer was not receptive to it.
Her boyfriend eventually went to retrieve his papers, she said, but he didn't have time — that's when he was pepper sprayed.
"We weren't expecting it at all. Absolutely not. We were talking to [the officer] calmly, everything was under control," she said.
Not assuming event was racially motivated
The pepper spray also hit her and she jumped out of the car so she could breathe, she said.
"I had a sore throat. They handcuffed me, threw me on the hood," she said.
"It was a nightmare. I screamed for my life. I was really traumatized."
Lafrenière confirmed Dubois was handcuffed and put into a police car before being released. He said officers at the scene wanted to "get her under control" because "she was disoriented."
Lafrenière also said the car collided with one of the police bikes during the incident. Dubois said flatly that never happened.
In the video, as the police officers try to arrest Louis, who is black, he calls them "a gang of racists."
Dubois said her boyfriend was just emotional and that the two don't want to assume the incident had racist undertones.
"We don't want to cry racism, but we wondered [what would have happened] if it had been someone else driving," she said.
Louis has been released from police custody with a promise to appear in court in early August on charges of obstruction of justice and resisting arrest.
With files from Radio-Canada's Romain Schué