70-year-old crossing guard arrested in Markham after dispute with off-duty cop
Mohamed Hameed struck vehicle he says rolled through intersection and was detained for mischief
The family of a 70-year-old crossing guard, who was arrested on allegations of mischief after being detained by an off-duty Toronto police officer outside a Markham, Ont., elementary school on Tuesday morning, is searching for answers.
Mohamed Hameed was arrested by York Regional Police around 8:15 a.m. following an altercation where he allegedly banged on the hood of a vehicle that he claims got too close to the children crossing at the intersection of Williamson Road and Bur Oak Avenue.
Hameed's daughter, Safra Najeemudeen, explained he had his stop sign raised, indicating to motorists to slow down and stop for the students in the crosswalk who were rushing to Mount Joy Public School moments before the bell rang.
"He was just trying to do his job and he ended up being treated like a criminal," Najeemudeen told CBC Toronto on Thursday.
She alleges the dispute between Hameed and the off-duty officer was sparked by a vehicle that rolled through a four-way stop while some children were still crossing the street.
"He was worried the vehicle was coming forward and would run over the children," she said. "So it was just like a reflex that he actually used his stop sign to stop the vehicle from coming forward and banged the vehicle."
The vehicle, identified by York Regional Police as a silver-coloured SUV, continued to drive through the intersection, according to Najeemudeen, and pulled over.
The Toronto officer, who was riding in the passenger seat beside his son, jumped out and walked toward Hameed, who was still standing in the intersection, she said.
The off-duty officer identified himself as a member of Toronto Police Service and said: "You're under arrest," Najeemudeen explained.
"He dragged my father across the intersection," she said, noting his fluorescent orange safety vest and shirt were ripped in the process.
"He didn't even know what was happening."
'They just came and they handcuffed him'
That's when parents who were dropping off their kids called 911 with reports of "two men fighting," said Const. Laura Nicolle, a spokesperson for York Regional Police.
They also pulled out their cellphones and recorded the officer holding Hameed against a vehicle. In a video shared on social media, a woman can be heard shouting: "Let go of him right now."
Najeemudeen, who had just dropped her two children at school, was leaving when she says she saw her father's vest lying in the middle of the intersection.
"I was alarmed," she recalled. "I thought, 'Oh my god. Did someone hit my dad?'"
He didn't even know what was happening.- Safra Najeemudeen, daughter
When officers arrived 15 minutes later, Nicolle told CBC Toronto, they found the men involved in a dispute and minor damage to the SUV.
Meanwhile, the officer pulled out his wallet and identified himself to the responding officers as Toronto police, Najeemudeen said.
"They just came and they handcuffed him," she stated.
Hameed was arrested for mischief, said Nicolle. While he was being apprehended, he collapsed in the back of the police cruiser, said Najeemudeen.
He was taken to Markham Stouffville Hospital and was later released unconditionally, pending the findings of an investigation, Nicolle said.
Family 'frustrated' by arrest
But how he was arrested has left Najeemudeen "frustrated." She says the off-duty officer "behaved in a totally irrational way," and that he and the arresting officers overstepped.
"The fact that they handcuffed my father in front of the community that respects him, in front of the children that obey the rules he sets, and they handcuffed him just like that like he's a criminal is unbelievable," Najeemudeen said.
He was just trying to do his job and he ended up being treated like a criminal.- Safra Najeemudeen
For more than three years, Hameed has kept kids safe. He lives nearby the school and also works as a crossing guard at St. Julia Billiart Catholic Elementary School.
"The community members are so hurt that someone could treat him like that," said Najeemudeen.
Toronto police spokesperson Gary Long confirmed the off-duty officer is a member of the force.
Meanwhile, York police are conducting a probe of the dispute and subsequent arrest.
"We are continuing to interview witnesses, and are appealing to anyone who may have witnessed the incident and who have not yet spoken with police to come forward," Nicolle said.