Primary complainant testifies in hearing in Toronto officers' arrest of black teens
Lawyer says racism, racial profiling key part of story he'll tell at police disciplinary hearing
A case involving four teenagers who say they were assaulted in Toronto's Lawrence Heights neighbourhood by two police officers in 2011 has gone before a police disciplinary hearing this week, and the lawyer for the complainants says racism and racial profiling will be part of the story he plans tell the tribunal.
"They are all black. They were teenagers. They were 15. This was in a Toronto Community Housing complex," lawyer Jeff Carolin said.
"This involved an interaction with officers from TAVIS. Those are all facts. The parties may disagree on whether those facts are relevant or not, but to me they're certainly relevant, and I'll do what I can to raise those issues at every point."
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Only three of the four teens known as the Neptune 4 have chosen to participate in the hearing.
Const. Adam Lourenco and Const. Scharnil Pais are facing a number of charges.
Lourenco is charged with two counts of discreditable conduct.
He and Pais also have been charged with unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority.
However, as it isn't a criminal hearing, the consequences are limited. The chief of police can ultimately choose a number of actions such as firing the officers, demoting them or revoking pay for a period of time.
Both officers have pleaded not guilty.
Primary complainant testifies
The 21-year-old primary complainant in the case, who can't be identified because he was underage at the time of the incident, testified Thursday. He claimed he, his brother and two friends were heading to a mentorship program in the neighbourhood when Lourenco and Pais approached.
He claims Lourenco said they fit the description of robbery suspects. However, after a brief exchange — the young man said he asked if they were under arrest and was told no, so he tried to leave.
That's when he claims Lourenco attacked him — punching him in the stomach and head until he fell.
The complainant also alleged in the hearing that Const. Lourenco cut himself and said, "Look, you just assaulted a police officer," as Const. Pais looked away.
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Part of the altercation was caught on a Toronto Community Housing security video, and it shows that just a minute and half after the teens were stopped, one of the officers hit one of the teens. The other teens attempted to help, but the officer drew his gun.
All four teens were arrested and charged, but the charges were eventually withdrawn.
The hearing continues Friday.
With files from Makda Ghebreslassie