TORONTO â€” A man who took cellphone video of an incident in which police were making an arrest has filed a formal complaint, alleging the officers threatened to confiscate his phone if he didn’t stop recording.
Waseem Khan said he witnessed the incident Tuesday when he and his wife were in their car about to drop off their son at a daycare in downtown Toronto.
Khan said he saw a police officer kick a man in the head and decided to get out of the car and record the incident.
The cellphone video, which Khan later gave to local television station CityTV, shows several police officers standing by a man who is lying face down on the street. Then Khan can be heard saying an officer used a stun gun on the man. The video appears to show the same officer stamping on the back of the man’s leg.
“I thought this guy is going to die and no one is going to know and there’s not going to be any evidence,” Khan said in an interview Thursday.
The video then shows the same officer looking in Khan’s direction and asking his colleagues to “get that guy out of my face please!”
“I’m a witness,” Khan is heard saying. “I’m not obstructing the arrest. I’m not involved in the investigation.”
A female officer walks toward Khan and says: “If you’re a witness, then we’re going to be seizing your cellphone.”
A male officer also approaches Khan, looks at the camera and says, “He’s going to spit in your face, you’re going to get AIDS.”
At that point, Khan stops recording. He said he felt intimidated by the officers and was outraged by the false comment about AIDS.
Khan said he filed a complaint about the incident with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, which is responsible for investigating complaints about officers’ behaviour, but cannot lay criminal charges.
His lawyer, Selwyn Pieters, said citizens are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms against illegal search and seizure.
“You can’t seize a phone unless you have authorization such as a search warrant or production order,” Pieters said.
Toronto police said they have launched an investigation into the incident. The force also publicly apologized Wednesday for one of the officers’ comments that falsely suggested AIDS can be spread through saliva.
“Those comments were wrong,” said police spokesman Mark Pugash.
Khan welcomed the apology, calling it “a good step.”
Pugash didn’t elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation, but told the Toronto Star on Tuesday the video was a “teaching moment.”
“Let me be clear: we have told our officers if somebody is videoing them and they are not obstructing and interfering, they have every right to film,” he told the newspaper.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he found parts of the incident troubling.
“I found the comments with respect to AIDS and saliva just ignorant,” he said. “The second part that I found troubling and disconcerting and unacceptable were the comments that had to do with people exercising their perfect right to stand on any street corner they want, as long as they’re not interfering with the police, and record and just watch what’s going on.”
Police identified the man being arrested when the incident happened as Andrew Henry, 45, of no fixed address.
Const. Craig Brister said they were called to a downtown Toronto shelter around 9 a.m. Tuesday for a man allegedly assaulting a staff member. Upon arrival, he said, the man then allegedly assaulted a police officer before he was located by other officers nearby.
Henry faces nine charges including two counts of assault, two counts of uttering death threats, three counts of assaulting a peace officer, assault with intent to resist or prevent arrest and mischief or damage to property.
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press