A teenager has filed a $3 million lawsuit alleging that Toronto’s Fare Inspectors and the Toronto Police used excessive force when they arrested him. At the center of the lawsuit is the disturbing video of his arrest and attack which left him severely injured, both psychologically and physically.
The teen is known in court papers as “John Doe” as he is still a minor.
An eyewitness said she saw the Fare Inspectors violently slam the teen into a bench and then again on the ground. The recorded video starts after Doe is already on the ground. For what appears to be an agonizing 8 minutes, the young man can be heard screaming in pain. As he appears to have done nothing wrong, he maintained his innocence and was unwilling to lay entirely still as police rammed their knees in his back and pummeled him.
Doe's lawyers say he was simply arrested for being Black. He and his mother are seeking $3 million in damages from the Toronto Police Services Board, the Toronto Transit Commission, two unidentified police officers and three unidentified TTC fare inspectors. They claim Doe was a victim of racial profiling, assault, unlawful detention and negligence among other allegations. Together with their lawyers, they filed a complaint with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), which acknowledged receipt of the following complaints:
- the respondent Transit Fare Inspector failed to treat customers equally without discrimination
- the respondent Transit Fare Inspector assaulted a TTC customer
- the respondent Transit Fare Inspector was otherwise uncivil to a member of the public
- the respondent Transit Fare Inspector acted in a disorderly manner or in a manner prejudicial to discipline or likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the TTC
- the respondent Transit Fare Inspector used unauthorized force on a TTC customer
The Fare Inspector who initiated contact with Doe has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the investigation takes place.
The teen and his mother claim the attack was unprovoked. Hugh Scher, one of the attorney’s advocating for the family said, “He was suddenly and without warning attacked and thrown to the ground by TTC fare inspectors despite crying for help, held there, not told what was happening.”
Scher said the TTC Fare Inspectors, “held his right arm behind his back, and kneeled, sat and held on his back and his legs,” which resulted in severe injuries. Scher said Doe “noticeably suffered a head injury,” but was not offered any medical assistance.
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“At no time did any of the defendants take steps to advise medical personnel of the nature of the force (use)...or of the injuries he sustained,” Scher said.
According to the Toronto Star, the teen’s list of injuries are extensive and quite severe:
"The list of physical damages include traumatic brain injury, injuries to his head, neck and shoulders. The half-hour ordeal of pain and public humiliation also left the teen suffering from anxiety and depression, nightmares and flashbacks, blurred vision and debilitating headaches."
Despite being taken into custody by no less than seven TTC Fare Inspectors and Police officers, the teen was not charged with any TTC infraction or crime. His lawyers contend his fare had indeed been paid and that he was targeted because of his ethnicity.
In the video, bystanders can be seen and heard pleading with the TTC authorities to simply place the teen in handcuffs and end his torture. Several bystanders began cursing at the TTC Fare Inspectors for their treatment of the teen.
David Shellnut, Doe’s other lawyer, said that he believes the effect of the incident on bystanders was traumatic. “Citizens of Toronto and TTC passengers were so distraught with what they saw, they wanted to ensure this young man was home safe,” he said.
In fact, several of the witnesses accompanied the young man all the way home once he was released by TTC Inspectors and the Toronto Police.
Watch video footage of the incident below: