July 29, 2008
The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — Two young Nova Scotia men filed complaints of police brutality Tuesday following allegations that off-duty officers uttered a racial slur, assaulted them and zapped one with a stun gun multiple times.
The men joined their families and about 50 people carrying placards outside the front entrance of the Halifax police headquarters before lodging their complaints over an incident last month in Digby.
Nathaniel Fells, 19, and William Drummond, 20, have said that one of a group of off-duty officers used the racial slur and then took a swing at Drummond as they walked down a street in the small community on June 22.
Fells, holding a poster that read 'Fair Treatment and Equality,' said he hopes the formal complaint will lead to a thorough investigation of the officers and a ban on the use of Tasers. "It's about abuse and racism coming to a stop," he said, surrounded by supporters under sunny skies. "If they're enforcing the law and they've got a badge on that's what they're there to do. They're not there to keep black people off the streets."
The group said it was also filing complaints with the provincial and federal human rights commissions about how three on-duty RCMP officers responded to the incident.
Fells said he and Drummond were taunted into fighting by five or six off-duty police officers who emerged from a van and pursued them down the street outside a bar. The men allege that RCMP paid little attention to the off-duty officers who were still threatening them after Drummond says he had been hit by a Taser about four times.
An RCMP criminal investigation is underway into the late-night incident, and internal probes have been launched by several municipal police forces into the behaviour of the off-duty officers from Halifax and New Glasgow.
Halifax Const. David Li said the formal complaints were made Tuesday afternoon when the two young men made statements to police about what happened that night. Li said the statements will be used by the force as it conducts an internal investigation into possible officer misconduct.
Rev. Michael Alden Fells, Nathaniel's father, said the officers should be charged for what he alleges is a case of clear, unprovoked police aggression. "They were intoxicated, used racial slurs and physically assaulted our youth," he said. "We want to send a very clear message that those who enforce the law are not above the law."
The young men also say that when the Mounties arrived to investigate, the off-duty officers were left alone, even though some of them were chasing Fells. Rev. Fells has viewed a video of the incident and says it shows the on-duty officers standing close to Drummond when he is on the ground. He also said the officer who Tasered Drummond is black, while another off-duty officer zapped him several times.
RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher denied the allegation that an off-duty officer used a Taser, saying the electronic record of the device that was used shows it was deployed only once that day.
"We feel confident that the only person who would have used a Taser would have been the on-duty member that was trying to gain control of Drummond," he said.
"It was used once."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
July 29, 2008