September 10, 2010
CHRIS DOUCETTE, Toronto Sun
Two young men who were allegedly beaten and Tasered repeatedly when they were caught up in a drug raid in a Richmond Hill hotel room two years ago have launched a $7 million lawsuit against York Regional Police.
Brandon Talon, then 23, whose battered face appeared on the front page of the Toronto Sun in the wake of the raid, and Jonathan Fontela, then 22, claim they have been left physically and mentally scarred since the wee hours of the morning of Sept. 6, 2008, when they claim they were “brutally” awakened by rifle butts, boot heels and jolt after jolt of electricity.
“Brandon is still having a lot of health problems,” said Brandon’s mom, Barb Talon, who is among the four complainants named in the civil suit. “He’s never been the same.”
Both men, who had no criminal records and passed drug tests, claim they had no idea their old high school pal was a dealer when they crashed in his hotel room.
Nor did they know their friend was under police surveillance for trafficking drugs from the room in the Sheraton Hotel at Hwy. 7 and Leslie St.
A statement of claim, filed with the courts Friday by their Toronto lawyer Leon Gavendo, alleges the pair were asleep on a couch and the dealer was with his girlfriend in a bedroom when officers entered the suite — some in plainclothes, some wearing ski masks and carrying assault rifles.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
At the time, Fontela and Talon thought it was a home invasion because they were half asleep and the officers allegedly didn’t identify themselves as police. Both men claim they instinctively fought for their lives.
“Brandon was tasered by one or more of the said police officers at least 12 times, including before, during and after he had been beaten and placed under arrest and placed in handcuffs, and including before and after he had lost consciousness as a result of being repeatedly beaten and tasered,” the suit alleges.
“Jonathan was tasered by one or more of the said police officers approximately 10 times, including before, during and after he had been beaten and placed under arrest and placed in handcuffs, and including before and after he had been completely subdued.”
The suit accuses officers of acting “maliciously” and using “grossly excessive force.”
Talon lost partial vision in one eye. Fontela suffered permanent brain damage.
They both also claim to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and each is suing for $3 million.
Talon’s mother and Fontela’s father are each asking for $500,000 in the suit, which names York Regional Police Chief Armand Le Barge and 17 of his officers.
“I have already proven my innocence in court,” Brandon said. “Now, all I can do is hope that the people responsible are held accountable for their actions so that no one else gets hurt.”
Police found cocaine in the bedroom and charged all four occupants.
Fontela and Talon later had their drug charges dropped. But they were found guilty of obstructing police and granted absolute discharges.
Le Barge, who is retiring in December after 37 years, said the civil suit was expected.
While he was unable to say much with the matter before the courts, Le Barge said he stands by his officers.
“They took actions that they felt were appropriate,” he said, adding out three of the four people charged have since been convicted.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Saturday, September 11, 2010
September 10, 2010