Black man testifies at trial of Toronto police detective accused of choking him during 2019 arrest

A man who was allegedly assaulted by Toronto police officers on a TTC bus in 2019 told an Ontario court his version of what happened today. 

Det. Christopher Hutchings has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, obstruction of justice

Court has seen video showing a Toronto police officer putting a chokehold on a passenger during an arrest, then throwing him and restraining him on the ground. (CBC)

A Black man who was allegedly assaulted during an arrest by two Toronto police officers on a TTC bus a year and a half ago told an Ontario court his version of what happened Thursday. 

Chase Richards, 40, testified before Justice Apple Newton-Smith at the Ontario Court of Justice at Old City Hall on Thursday, recalling the events that led up to the incident on Dec. 13, 2019. 

His testimony comes during the trial of Det. Christopher Hutchings of 43 Division, who has been with the force for 24 years. Both Hutchings and his fellow officer, Det. Jason Tanouye — a 12-year Toronto police veteran, also of 43 Division — are charged with assault and attempting to obstruct justice. Both men have pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Court saw video evidence this week indicating Hutchings choked Richards for 30 seconds, then threw him down and restrained him on the ground.

The crown attorney is arguing that Hutchings used excessive force. 

WATCH | CBC News reporter Jessica Ng has the latest on the trial: 

Trial underway for Toronto police detective who allegedly assaulted Black man on TTC bus during 2019 arrest

5 months ago
A man who was allegedly assaulted by Toronto police officers on a TTC bus told a court his version of what happened on Thursday. The two officers are charged with assault and attempting to obstruct justice. The crown attourney is arguing one of the officers, Det. Christopher Hutchings, used excessive force. Jessica Ng has the details. 1:54

Richards testified he boarded the 133 Neilson bus at Markham and Ellesmere roads from the back door. He told the court he tapped his Presto card and took a seat before being told that the bus driver wanted to speak to him.

"He said that I came on at the back, and I said to him, 'Yeah, I did come on at the back, but I paid my fare with my Presto card,'" Richards, a single father of three, said Thursday. 

"I took out my card again and I tapped it just to show him that basically I wasn't cheating."

Bus driver took vehicle out of service, Richards says 

Richards said he has had a Presto card since the system was implemented and has never had an issue boarding a TTC bus from the rear entrance.

But that changed, Richards said, when the bus driver said that he didn't want to ride with him because he smelled like cigarettes. 

"I said to him that, 'I won't be standing or sitting beside you for… my smell of cigarette to be bothering you.'"

Richard said he then tapped his Presto card a third time to prove that he paid — but the driver then took the bus out of service.

"At that time, everyone was getting off, I decided to stay on for the simple fact that I'm a young Black man and I don't want to be accused of cheating and leaving the scene," Richards told court. 

Richards said he thought TTC special constables would intervene. Instead, two plainclothes Toronto police officers boarded the bus: Hutchings and Tanouye.

"One of them said, 'Is this the motherf---er that's causing the problem?'" Richards recalled in court. 

"I replied, 'I'm not a motherf---er because I paid my fare.'"

He testified that one of the officers grabbed him by the throat, choked him, threw him in a seat and then restrained him on the ground. 

Charges against Richards withdrawn

When contacted by CBC Toronto on Thursday, a Toronto police spokesperson said: "The service does not teach neck restraint or 'chokeholds' as a standard."

Richards was arrested and charged with causing a disturbance and mischief, but the charges were later withdrawn. He will continue to be cross examined on June 24.

As for the officers, Hutchings is suspended with pay. Tanouye is still on the job and his case will be heard separately.

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.