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Bodycam footage of alleged assault at centre of $2.4M lawsuit against TPS is being withheld, lawyer says


The family and legal representation of a man suing the Toronto Police Service (TPS) after they allegedly Tasered him while pinning him to the ground with a knee on his neck says body camera footage of the "brutal" assault is being withheld by the force.

Christine O’Gilvie and Kenneth O’Gilvie, parents of Hasani O’Gilvie, spoke alongside Lawyer David Shellnutt at a news conference Monday to bring awareness to the incident, which they say is “symbolic of the experiences endured by many young Black men in North America.”

“It's difficult to imagine how haunting it must be to find yourself face down on the ground piled on by three officers while complying and pleading you've done nothing wrong, as they hold you down by your neck and stun you with a taser repeatedly,” Shellnut, who is representing the family, told reporters Monday.

A statement of claim filed on behalf of Hasani alleges that a cruiser followed him on Aug. 12, 2021. O’Gilvie, 27 at the time, was dropping by a North York plaza before catching the bus to the University of Toronto’s St. George campus, the document says.

His family says he was on his way to write a final paper.

In what police have labelled a case of “mistaken identity,” based on an officer’s notes obtained by CTV News Toronto, Hasani was not the Black man police were searching for.

Hasani’s claim goes on to say that he stated his name to convey that to the officer. But the confrontation allegedly persisted.

“Hasani identified who he was, why did you choose not to believe him?” Christine asked at Monday’s news conference. “This choice led to the brutal assault of my son.”

Within seconds, another officer showed up, and then another. Hasani was tackled, piled on, and Tasered with an officer’s knee and leg fixed to his neck while complying with requests to get on the ground with his hands behind his back, his claim says.

“Through no fault of his own, [Hasani] was seriously injured, both physically and psychologically,” Shellnut said.

According to Christine, Hasani halted his studies for a year-and-a-half following the alleged assault, and has only resumed this month through online learning.

“He receded into himself,” Christine said. “He still hasn’t recovered.”

From left to right, Lawyer David Shellnut, Christine O'Gilvie, and Kenneth O’Gilvie can be seen at a news conference on Jan. 16, 2022 (CTV News Toronto)

Hasani is now suing TPS and the three officers involved for $2.4M in damages, along with $50,000 per Charter violation, the claim states.

Christine is also pursuing $250,000 in damages under the Family Law Act.

The allegations have not been proven in court. TPS said it cannot comment on matters before the court, but added that all three officers involved are also currently before the TPS disciplinary tribunal on the matter.

Shellnutt says the incident was caught on body camera footage, which he alleges Toronto police are withholding from the public. He says he filed a Freedom of Information request in August 2022 for the relevant officer notes and body camera footage – the latter of which he says was denied.

“The horrific ordeal was caught on body camera footage, which I have seen, that is being buried by the Toronto Police Service we suspect because of the huge public outcry it will elicit,” Shellnutt said.

“I can only guess as to why they’re resisting our efforts to release the body camera footage: it is distressing,” he said.

CTV News Toronto reached out to Toronto police as to why the footage has not been released, but did not hear back in time for publication.


The allegations come on the heels of an announced $48M increase to TPS’s budget in the 2023 municipal budget.

Christine called the increase a “slap in the face,” “insensitive,” and “unfair.”

“We’re giving them more money to brutalize us rather than putting money where the communities need it most,” she said.

Beverly Bain, a professor of gender studies at the University of Toronto and organizer of the No Pride in Policing Coalition, told CTV News Toronto in early January that any increase to police funding in Toronto cannot be described as responsible and will not increase public safety.

“Any increase is irresponsible,” Bain said in an interview. Instead, she echoes Christine's sentiments, stating the money should be redistributed into community services.

“Police do not protect people,” she said. “Especially racialized people.”

“We already know that police don't protect racialized people. So why is the narrative that more police would mean safer communities? The question becomes: safer for whom?”

On June 15, 2022, outgoing Chief of Police James Ramer held a news conference in which he issued an apology following the release of data on race-based use of force in the city.

The data showed that racialized Torontonians were 20 to 60 per cent more likely to face excessive force when interacting with police in 2020.

Christine said the same racial discrimination continues to this day, and that more accountability remains needed.

“The issue of young black males being treated unjustly and their dignity being eroded happens too often in a society such as ours, [which] purports itself to be a democratic one,” she said.

Shellnutt and the O’Gilvies said they sent a letter to newly-appointed TPS Chief Myron Demkiw and Toronto Mayor John Tory in October 2022 “telling them about [Hasani’s] incident, if they didn’t already know,” and highlighting it as an individual example of what police had just apologized for – excessive force used against black Torontonians.

“To this day, we’ve been met with silence,” Shellnutt said.

This has only furthered eroded the O'Gilvie family's trust in the force, Christine said.

“In his sworn speech, [Demkiw] highlighted the importance of community trust,” Christine said. “On Aug.12 that trust was taken away from us as a family because of the brutality my son experienced at the hands of police officers sworn to serve and protect.”

"Sir, this cycle of brutality being perpetrated on young Black males needs to stop -- today, we stand in the stead of these young Black men, in the stead of many mothers such as myself. Please see us. I mean, actually, see us," she continued.

Meanwhile, the O’Gilvies say they've been left to "pick up the pieces" as a family.

“[It] has been 17 months – 17 months since these officers brutally attacked my son and have yet to be held accountable for their actions,” Christine said.

“I put forth a question: where’s the justice in that?” 

With files from CTV News Toronto's Hannah Alberga Top Stories

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