Man charged in violent TTC streetcar arrest caught on camera

A 34-year-old man is facing multiple charges after a violent arrest aboard a TTC streetcar that was caught on camera Friday morning.

'Everything escalated in less than a second,' said Twitter user who posted footage of altercation

A still frame from a video of the violent arrest posted on Twitter shows a TTC rider being sprayed with a substance while a special constable tackles him. (@CascadingDesign/Twitter)

A 34-year-old man is facing multiple charges after a violent arrest aboard a TTC streetcar that was caught on camera Friday morning.

The man faces two counts of assaulting a peace officer and two counts of uttering threats.

No charges have been laid against the special constables involved in the incident. Toronto police would not say if any further charges are expected or if the incident is still under investigation.

Footage of the incident on the 501 streetcar route on Queen Street East Friday morning was posted to Twitter by a rider who said it took place around 7:50 a.m. In it, the two TTC staff are seen tackling a rider and spraying him with some sort of substance.

It happened just days after the Toronto Transit Commission revealed plans to ramp up efforts to curb fare evasion.

"Everything escalated in less than a second," tweeted user @CascadingDesign, who posted the 12-second video.

CBC Toronto was unable to reach the poster, however they provided a long string of details on Twitter.

It all began, the poster said, when a man who appeared to be intoxicated was approached by fare inspectors, who asked for proof of payment. 

"He blew them off. Then they insisted, stopped the streetcar, and as he got up they crowded in," the user tweeted. 

That's when things turned physical, the video poster continued. Moments later, the person who was recording the video was forced off the streetcar, which can be seen in the footage, and the man on the streetcar was handcuffed.

"Before the officers got on, he had kicked his shoes off and was randomly yelling at people, but if you ignored him... he wouldn't have been a danger to anybody," the poster said.

In a statement to CBC News, the TTC said the incident occurred during a routine fare inspection. 

'This is not how the TTC should be treating riders'

"The altercation involving two TTC Special Constables took place after they were approached by several customers on board the vehicle who had concerns," said spokesperson Hayley Waldman in the email statement. 

TTC CEO Rick Leary also provided a statement saying he had "given direction to initiate an investigation by an external party," and is "taking this issue very seriously."

Officers need to de-escalate these situations, not resort to force.​​- Coun. Brad Bradford

Toronto police said in an email statement the man was reportedly "acting aggressive and violent." He was arrested by TTC personnel and taken to 51 Division, where police are continuing to investigate. 

At least three city councillors spoke out in reaction to the video.

Coun. Brad Bradford called it an example of the "wrong way to handle fare evasion."

"Another example of why we need to improve the training and recruitment processes for fare inspectors. Officers need to de-escalate these situations, not resort to force," he tweeted.

"Or... stop policing fares so heavily," tweeted Coun. Gord Perks in response.

The actual offence, if any, doesn't even matter anymore. This is not how the TTC should be treating riders. There needs to be a full investigation into this use of force, which is never acceptable," tweeted Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam. 

TTC ramping up enforcement after losing millions

This week, the TTC's audit committee estimated that the transit agency lost $70.3 million to fare evasion in 2019. That's up from 2018's amount, which the city's auditor general estimated at $61 million.

As a result, TTC management is now planning to ramp up its transit enforcement efforts, in part by hiring more fare inspectors, some of whom operate in plain clothes. 

By this fall, the TTC is aiming to have 111 fare inspectors and 72 special constables to patrol the system.

"The TTC's Fare Inspectors are provided extensive training on customer service, including mental health awareness, diversity and inclusion, human rights, and confronting anti-Black racism training aimed to prevent racial bias," a report on the plan notes.