Video tells story of Black TTC rider's violent arrest, Crown says in officer's assault trial
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A Toronto judge trying a case where a Toronto police officer is seen on video grabbing a Black TTC rider by the throat within seconds of arriving at a call of a disturbance should use the footage as key evidence he is guilty of assault, a crown lawyer said in court Wednesday.
Roger Shallow told the Ontario Court of Justice that she should place little weight on testimony by other officers responding to the call alongside Detective Christopher Hutchings that the rider, Chase Richards, was aggressive and required the use of police force.
“It’s our position the accused acted shamefully. He betrayed his badge. He betrayed his oath as a police officer, and betrayed the public trust,” Shallow said.
“Indeed after a mere 20 seconds he became impatient with Mr. Richards and frankly decided to give him an ‘attitude adjustment’,” Shallow said, with the young man’s race a factor in the officer’s decision.
“It continued with the accused unnecessarily grounding Mr. Richards to the floor of the bus and needlessly keeping him in a prone position while he was behind his back, and it culminated with the dehumanizing use of Mr. Richards’ body as a foot stool,” he said.
Shallow was speaking in closing arguments in the case, which has received national attention in part because of the concerns of racism in the police force of Canada’s largest city, and the security video taken from the TTC bus that shows much of the incident unfold.
Hutchings’ lawyer argued that the video is not at all the whole story -- and denied that Richards’ race had anything to do with his treatment.
“This is not a case about racial injustice…Trying to make this case the Canadian version of George Floyd is of no assistance to anyone, particularly those who actually really suffer from social injustice,” Brauti told the court.
Brauti described the incident as one where the bus driver had summoned the police to deal with a man on the bus who broke the rules by getting on at the back door, and became unruly and aggressive. Richards was in the midst of committing the act of mischief, and that explains the officer’s actions, Brauti said.
“Mr. Richards did not have force used on his because he was a Black man. Mr. Richards had force used on him because he committed a criminal act,” he said.
The court has heard that Richards, 40, paid his fare as he boarded the back door of the TTC bus on December 13, 2019. A bus driver challenged him, he defends himself verbally, and a video shows the bus going out of service, and Hutchings and his partner, Detective Jason Tanouye arriving.
After 20 seconds, Hutchings appears to grab Richards by the throat, and push him first into a seat and then to the ground.
In a separate video taken in a police car, Richards can be heard talking to two other officers, who tell him he’s being held for causing a disturbance.
“For paying?” Richards responds. “I showed my Presto card. I paid on the bus. I got choked. He physically choked me.” He asks the officer to check the video of the bus — video that is now in Justice Apple Newton-Smith’s hands as she determines whether to convict Hutchings of assault.
The Toronto Police Service has said it investigated and charged Hutchings and suspended him with pay.
This isn’t the end of legal jeopardy for Hutchings — both he and his partner are accused of making a false account of the arrest in their memo books. A separate trial on that is scheduled for next year.