Relatives of man who died in police custody in Barrie, Ont., want justice

Relatives of a man who died after an arrest in Barrie, Ont., are calling for justice as a police watchdog conducts an investigation into the incident.

32-year-old man's sister-in-law says nothing will take away the family's pain

Rosemarrie Blessing attends a vigil for Olando Brown in Barrie, Ont., in this undated handout photo (Rosemarrie Blessing/Canadian Press)

Relatives of a man who died after an arrest in Barrie, Ont., are calling for justice as a police watchdog conducts an investigation into the incident.

Olando Brown died on Friday after an arrest that involved officers with Barrie police. The force said the 32-year-old man went into "medical distress" after he was taken to a police station.

Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), is probing the case and has asked anyone with information to contact them.

According to a news release from the SIU, the incident occurred at about 2:30 p.m. on June 22. Video taken by a bystander on June 22 appears to show police using a stun gun on Brown more than once and appears to show the man being hit by an officer.

Looking for answers

In the video, a bystander can be heard criticizing the police officers as two of them struggle with the man, eventually wrestling him to the ground. In a separate video that appears to be captured from a different angle, a third officer joins the arrest at one point. 

Members of Brown's family said they are looking for answers.

"This is really terrible, and no one at all deserves the treatment that he got," said RoseMarie Drummond, Brown's sister-in-law.

"There's no words to express the hurt and the pain that a lot of us are feeling … I just want to see this matter really get justice."

Drummond's husband — Brown's adopted brother — said Brown had an 11-year-old daughter who is devastated.

"It's rough on her. They were trying to not have her see the video," said Volence Drummond, noting that the child was at a vigil for Brown held in Barrie on Monday.

'He was loved'

Brown's aunt, Barbara South, said those who came to the vigil were outraged at the incident.

"That shows the type of person he was, and that he was loved," she said. "We just want to keep a light on the situation and get some justice for him."
Olando Brown is seen in this undated handout photo. (Rosemarrie Blessing/Canadian Press)

Brown was a musician, Drummond added.  "He was focusing on a music career and setting up his own
business, he was in and out of studios," he said. "Other people have reached out to me to say he was a hard worker."

Barrie police said in their own news release that they cannot provide any comment on the incident, because the SIU has invoked its mandate to investigate. The release did not elaborate on why the man was arrested or what charges he might have faced. 

Barrie's police chief told reporters on Monday that officers performed first aid on Brown and called paramedics after he went into medical distress. He died shortly afterwards in hospital, she said.

'A shock to the community'

"This was a very tragic incident, one that touches family, friends and our whole community," Kimberley Greenwood said.

A lawyer representing Brown's family said his clients want to know why and how their loved one died.
A memorial for Olando Brown is seen in Barrie, Ont. in this undated handout photo. Relatives of a man who died after an arrest in Barrie, Ont., say they want justice. (Rosemarrie Blessing/Canadian Press)

"We know that the police were involved at the time of death. There was a very violent arrest and a significant amount of force," said Royland Moriah. "This is a shock to the community."

The day after the man died, the union that represents Barrie police officers said in a tweet: "A tragic incident for all involved occurred in Barrie yesterday. We stand behind our members 100%."

The SIU is an arm's-length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

With files from CBC News