An argument is raging on social media after a 23-year-old man ended up in hospital, in a coma for two weeks following an arrest by Toronto Police.
The question at the centre of the debate: is it “police brutality” or “fabricated claims”?
Saron Gebresellassi, the lawyer representing the young man along with his family are alleging the former. Toronto Police as well as Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) claim the injuries were not the result of police actions.
Police allege that on June 3, shortly after 11:30 p.m., officers located 23-year-old, Musie Gebremichel driving a stolen vehicle. When officers on bicycles approached, he drove directly at them “knocking their bicycles into traffic.”
Following a short pursuit he was taken into custody and then to hospital. He is facing nine charges including three counts of assaulting a police officer.
On Monday, Gebresellassi sent out a tweet at approximately 4:30 p.m. claiming 14 division officers nearly killed Gebremichel.
Gebresellassi says her client only came out of his coma Tuesday morning around 4 a.m.
When he regained consciousness, she says he answered her questions by blinking his eyes because he was unable to speak and he allegedly confirmed he was beaten by police.
Gabresellassi has not seen her client’s medical records yet, but the family has requested them and by law, she says the records must be produced within seven days.
When asked how she could have known that her client was the victim of “police brutality” a day before she was able to communicate with him and confirm it, Gabresellassi said the conclusion was based on her client being in a coma.
“In my view if you’re beaten into a coma, our conclusion and what the families concern was is that he might not even survive his injuries.”
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association tweeted Tuesday calling Gabresellassi’s claims “bogus” and demanding that she “apologize to our members as we look at legal action.” He also added that Gebremichel was hospitalized due to a pre-existing medical condition.
The photo tweeted out by Gabresellassi and others on social media was taken on June 5, two days after he was hospitalized. Further, police notified the SIU of his medical condition two days after Gebremichel’s arrest.
In an email statement to CityNews an SIU spokesperson says, in part that “based on the information the SIU had at the time, the SIU did not invoke its mandate. According to the medical evidence, the man did not sustain any serious injury deemed to be the result of any police action.”
Gabresellassi calls that stance “appalling”. She is calling on the SIU to release more information about how they came to their conclusion.