UofT Student Suing Toronto Police For $1.6M After He Was Allegedly Tasered With An Officer’s Knee On His Neck
A police officer’s knee was pinned against the neck of a University of Toronto student as he was repeatedly Tasered on the ground with his hands behind his head before his identification proved what he had told police – they had the wrong man, a statement of claim says.
Hasani O’Gilvie is now suing the Toronto police for $1.6 million in damages.
He said he noticed a cruiser following 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’s downtown campus, according to a statement of claim.
In what police labelled a “mistaken identity” case, based on an officer’s notes obtained by CTV News Toronto, O’Gilvie was not the young Black man police were searching for. O’Gilvie’s claim goes on to say that he stated his name to convey that to the officer. But the confrontation persisted.
Within seconds, another cop showed up, and then another. O’Gilvie was tackled, piled on and Tasered with an officer’s knee and leg fixed to his neck while complying with requests, on the ground with his hands behind his back, his claim says.
O’Gilvie is suing the Toronto police and the three officers involved for the damages incurred on that summer day, along with $50,000 per Charter violation. His mother, Christine O’Gilvie, is also pursuing $250,000 in damages under the Family Law Act.
The entire ordeal was captured on the officers’ bodycams, according to O’Gilvie’s lawyer, who has viewed the footage. The allegations have not been proven in court. For that reason, a Toronto police spokesperson said they could not comment on the case. It is scheduled to be heard in February 2024.
According to one of the police officer’s notes, O’Gilvie had the “same description” as an outstanding suspect.
When O’Gilvie noticed a cruiser following him, he “feared for his safety,” the statement of claim says. He slipped into a walkway wedged between a No Frills and another building in a plaza near Jane Street and Wilson Avenue. The cruiser followed. Sgt. Rachel Saliba exited the car and started asking questions, the lawsuit alleges.
“Mr. Ogilvie provided his full name but the Defendant Sergeant Saliba did not believe him,” the claim states.
Another officer, Const. Jilliane Baquiran, soon joined, “physically detained” and attempted to arrest O’Gilvie “under threat of Taser” while he “assured them that he had not done anything and put his hands up and in front of him to show he was complying,” according to the claim.
The situation “escalated,” as a third officer, Const. Seth Rietkoetter, “immediately tackled” O’Gilvie upon arrival.
“As the three Defendant officers piled on Mr. Ogilvie, the Defendant Constable Rietkoetter placed his knee and leg on Mr. Ogilvie’s neck,” the document alleges.
The claim states that despite O’Gilvie complying with his hands placed behind his back, he was repeatedly Tasered while “subdued, not resisting, on the ground, and restraints being applied.” Rietkoetter’s knee stayed on O’Gilvie’s neck as he continued to Taser him, according to the claim.
“Once Mr. Ogilvie was completely restrained, the Defendant Officers unlawfully searched Mr. Ogilvie’s bag, wherein they found identification confirming what he had told the Defendant Sergeant Saliba before she attacked him,” the claim states.
The officers apologized and let O’Gilvie go. “He fled to safety.”
Toronto police confirmed to CTV News Toronto that the officers are still currently working for the force.
Scars mark O’Gilvie’s face and he sustained soft-tissue injuries to his upper body. But it’s the emotional injuries that caused the most lasting harm, his lawyer says.
“The significant injuries are psychological,” David Shellnutt told CTV News Toronto.
Nightmares and flashbacks haunt O’Gilvie’s sleep, leaving him with insomnia. Depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress infiltrate his days, his lawsuit says.
“Young Black men, the impact of having a state authority attack you and all this is quite traumatizing. We suspect that these injuries will linger on for years and require a significant amount of treatment to resolve, if ever,” Shellnutt said.
“Mr. O’gilvie was detained, arrested and assaulted because he was a young Black man and for no other lawful reason,” the lawsuit alleges.“This racial profiling of Mr. Ogilvie by the Defendants was anti-Black, discriminatory, unlawful and in violation of the terms of the Ontario Human Rights Code.”
Shellnutt points to the broader timeline of the incident. It was one year after George Floyd was pinned to the ground by the knee of an officer in Minneapolis. It was one year before former police chief James Ramer apologized to Black and Indigenous communities following the release of race-based data in the force, finding Black residents were 230 per cent more likely to have a police officer point a firearm at them when they appeared to be unarmed than white people.
“And then, they are asking for more money,” Shellnut said, referencing the recent approval of the Toronto police’s $48.3-million budget increase.
“I think that Hasani’s story is not anything new to Black folks in Toronto. They have for years decried the use of force,” Shellnut said.