WARNING — This story contains details some may find distressing
A Montreal police officer will be answering to the force’s “integrity” department after being caught on video violently pushing an unarmed homeless man face-first into a concrete block.
The video, which was taken on Thursday in Chinatown, shows a relatively young man staggering to his feet after hitting the block head-first, only to have the officer push him again.
“I think it was a matter of inches,” the man who shot the video told CTV News.
“He could have cracked his skull, broke his neck.”
After the man got up, clearly disoriented, “the cop didn’t even go to see if he was okay… he just picked him up and pushed him again,” said the man, who didn’t want to have his name published for fear of retribution by the police.
The 17-second video, which he posted on TikTok, already had about 50,000 views a day later and had attracted the attention not just of Montreal police but those who work with people living on Montreal’s streets.
“This person seemed harmless, did not seem aggressive at all, from what I saw,” said James Hughes, the CEO of the Old Brewery Mission, a nearby men’s shelter.
“And so what I witnessed in the video was totally unjustifiable,” he said. “We ourselves will be talking to the police about it.”
Montreal police (SPVM) said in a statement Friday that they were “well aware of the video currently circulating on social media” and were looking into the incident.
They followed up shortly after to say the force had officially opened an internal investigation, which will be handled by the SPVM’s “integrity and professional standards department.”
Two officers were present in the video, but it’s unclear if both are under investigation.
FIRST HEAD INJURY NOT CAUGHT ON CAMERA
The man who filmed it, though, says that both officers were involved, and that the entire episode was even more disturbing than the 17-second clip shows.
He turned on his camera only after seeing another officer — the second one who appears in the video — give the man a different kind of head injury, he said.
At the time he shot the video, the man was visiting a friend in a building opposite a “half-abandoned” area between Clark and St. Urbain streets, just north of René-Levesque Blvd., where people living on the street congregate, he said. He looked out the second-storey window to see the scene unfolding.
“There was… a hut the guy had made. It was two pallets with another one on top and a tarp. It was a little home-type thing,” he said, which tends to be rebuilt on the same spot consistently.
At the time the police approached, the homeless man was sitting in it with a blanket hanging down like a door. He pulled aside the blanket to speak to the officers, and then one of the officers suddenly knocked off the pallet balanced on top.
“He pulled it away so the top plank fell on the guy’s head that was in the enclosure,” the man said.
“The guy’s touching his head, looking at his hand to see if there’s blood, so it must have hit him quite hard,” he said. “That’s when I started filming.”
The man, looking stunned, appears on the video to be arguing with the officer or complaining about what happened.
That’s when “the other [officer] came over… it looked like he didn’t know the guy just got hit with a plank,” the bystander said.
“That’s when he just decided to shove him.”
Later, after the man staggered down the street, “the cop took out his billy bat and started chasing him,” the man said — also not captured on video.
‘EXACT OPPOSITE’ OF POLICE TRAINING ON THE HOMELESS
The Old Brewery Mission routinely does trainings for rookie officers and teaches them to do the “exact opposite” of this kind of thing, said Hughes — and it does so with the support of SPVM management, he said.
“Most of the time they’re left alone… they’re left to their own devices,” Hughes said.
Homelessness is growing in Montreal, and police also generally leave temporary structures alone, he said.
Young officers are taught to approach as a possible source of support, asking if the person needs help, and if they are in “distress” of any kind, to get an ambulance or otherwise connect them with health care, Hughes said.
“There’s up to 1,000 people every night sleeping in the streets of Montreal. And the police service has gotten so much better over the years… that to see this incident of violence towards an individual who’s sleeping rough, in the street, is really, really disappointing, and very sad,” he said.
“To actually what appears to be aggressively dismantle where someone is staying, and then aggressively push them out of the way, as we saw, and the guy almost had his head hitting that concrete block, is it leaves me scratching my head, like what was going on?”
The man who shot the video said he feels the people currently using that corner of St. Urbain were encouraged to “move out” of their old haunt, a little further north in the Village, and more recently began to gather in Chinatown.
But aside from eyesores, he said he’s rarely seen more serious problems there.
“Most addicts you talk to are nice people. They’re just struggling with something,” he said. “You see them do some crazy things, but as long as they’re not attacking regular people, I don’t understand why they bother people.”
Read Also :