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Mother of 16-year-old punched, arrested by Durham police speaks out

Last Updated Jun 7, 2019 at 12:28 am EDT

The mother of a 16-year-old boy in a now viral video that shows a police officer punching him in the back several times is speaking out.

Durham police say the officers involved were following protocol when they were trying to restrain the teen on May 15 in the Taunton and Thickson roads area of Whitby. The video shows one officer punching him several times in the back as the boy appears to struggle and resist.

Police say they had earlier received a call about a distraught male in the area, possibly armed with a knife. The boy was eventually taken into custody and according to investigators was not injured.

 

But the mother of the boy at the centre of the incident, who did not want to be identified, claims police are misrepresenting the situation.

She tells CityNews she didn’t see the video until about a week after the incident took place and did not know what transpired as her son was initially unwilling to speak about it.

According to the boy’s mother, the days events unfolded as follows:

  • The boy’s girlfriend called his mother during school hours to inform her that he did not look well at school. Based on what she heard, his mother determined he needed immediate medical attention. The boy’s exact condition was not shared with CityNews.
  • When she could not contact him after trying multiple times, the boy’s mother sought the assistance of Durham Regional Police to help find him because of the urgent need for medical help.
  • She went into a police station and explained the situation and two officers were sent to her home shortly after.
  • Soon after the officers arrived the boy’s girlfriend called the mother and said she had located the boy in a park in the Taunton and Thickson roads area. The officers relayed the information to another set of police officers.
  • The second set of officers found the boy soon after and information was relayed to the mother via the officers outside her home that an ambulance is on scene and the boy is being taken to hospital.

When she got to the hospital, she says her son’s face was badly bruised.

“He told me that the police beat him up,” she says, adding that he was too distressed and tired to elaborate. She says given everything he had been through that day, she did not press the issue further and decided to let him rest.

When the video came to light, the boy’s mother says she was shocked and disappointed with the police.

“I was in complete shock and hurt that this was the way the police handled a wellness check…a mental health concern,” she says. “The concerns that I stressed to them for his well being and the fact that I needed that wellness check done and he needed to seek medical attention immediately … I was very disappointed in the way the Durham Regional Police handled it.”

In addition, she says even though an ambulance was on scene, her son was not assessed by paramedics nor was he taken to hospital by them.

“[He] was transported to the hospital in the back seat of the cop car when they threw him in,” she says.

The mother says the family has hired a lawyer and wants to launch a complaint with the Special Investigations Unit – the province’s police watchdog that looks into reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

A second teen who was arrested for swearing and charged with a public nuisance infraction also feels he was treated unfairly.

He tells CityNews he only swore once because he was frustrated and was asking the officers for their badge numbers, which he claims they wouldn’t give him. Another boy who was recording the whole event is heard swearing multiple times on the video.

“You see another person who is Caucasian and he’s swearing at them, pointing the camera at them – they’re not telling him ‘don’t do that you’re going to get a ticket for all of that’ – but I do it once because I’m mad and frustrated [and it resulted in a ticket],” he says.

Durham police maintain he wasn’t arrested merely for swearing.

“I think at this point it was the totality of many things …” Const. George Tudos told CityNews on Tuesday. “So I don’t think it was just one word that was uttered.”

“Every situation is different and I know that the officers, their priority was to one individual that they were dealing with, so it didn’t help that this other person was shouting at officers.”

Sixteen-year-old Brian, who recorded the video, says he was compelled to capture the incident on camera but couldn’t do much else.

“I had to record … I couldn’t do anything about it, they’re police officers. You can’t really pull your friend away from the situation because they’ll arrest you too for getting involved,” he says.

CityNews reached out to Durham Regional Police late Thursday night, but did not receive a response.

Earlier this week, police released a statement saying the officers “followed proper protocol based on the information provided” and are not under investigation.

The statement reads in part:

“The teen had existing cuts to his hand and was un-cooperative with officers, who tried to talk to him. The officers, while attempting to apprehend him, brought him to the ground and tried to handcuff the male. Several punches were used to gain compliance of the male, who refused to make his hands available. The male was eventually placed into custody and was not injured.”   

The statement also says a copy of the video and the officer’s use of force report will be forwarded to the training branch and the professional standards unit for review.

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