Charges laid after violent altercation with TTC officers caught on camera
The man in question, a streetcar passenger, was approached by TTC special constables on the 501 Queen route Friday morning around 7:30 a.m., according to witnesses.
A Twitter user who filmed part of the resulting altercation said that two officers asked the man to provide proof of payment, but that he "blew them off."
In a now-viral 12-second-long video clip, one officer can be seen striking the man repeatedly while another sprays some sort of white substance from a cannister in the passenger's face.
A third TTC officer wearing a "fare inspector" vest can be seen near the end of the video, trying to stop the Twitter user from filming.
The widely-shared video sparked not only a Toronto Police investigation, but another wave of intense criticism against TTC fare inspectors and their notoriously heavy-handed techniques.
This, just days after two TTC documents were published containing plans for cracking down on fare evaders even harder — with the controversial use of plainclothes officers on vehicles, among other tactics.
"This is unequivocally the wrong way to handle fare evasion," wrote city councillor Brad Bradford on Twitter of the clip from Friday morning.
"Another example of why we need to improve the training and recruitment processes for fare inspectors. Officers need to de-escalate these situations, not resort to force."
"The actual offence, if any, doesn't even matter anymore," wrote councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam similarly.
"This is not how the TTC should be treating riders. There needs to be a full investigation into this use of force, which is never acceptable."
How do these glorified security guards even have the power of arrest, let alone the right to administer pepper spray? On a crowded streetcar? Over $3 and some change?— Ash Catherwood (@AshCatherwood) February 7, 2020
"No incident on the TTC in an ideal world should end in any kind of violence or anything even close to that," said Toronto Mayor John Tory on Sunday.
"However, we haven't seen everything and I think we need to see everything. That’s why I’m very heartened that the first reaction of Rick Leary, the CEO of the TTC, was to refer this out to the Toronto police — outside of the TTC for a full investigation, which is now underway."
Toronto Police revealed on Sunday evening that the passenger, 34-year-old Steven Thackaberry, was arrested following the altercation and that he has since been charged with two counts each of uttering threats and assaulting a peace officer.
Police did not say if the investigation has concluded, or if any further charges are expected.
Neither police nor TTC officials have spoken as to what the substance sprayed at the passenger was, but the TTC's customer service account did confirm on Twitter that special constables carry pepper spray with them.
Fare Inspectors are not equipped with pepper spray, special constables are. We are currently reviewing this incident. ^FR🧭— TTC Customer Service (@TTChelps) February 8, 2020
The Twitter user who posted the original video did say that the passenger was possibly "intoxicated" or "just belligerent" and that he "had kicked his shoes off and was randomly yelling at people" before fare inspectors boarded the streetcar.
Toronto Police also said in a statement to CBC News that the man had been "acting aggressive and violent."
CUPE 5089, the union representing TTC fare inspectors and special constables, is asking TTC officials to release CCTV video of the entire incident in an effort to give the public a better understanding of what happened.
"It is unacceptable and unprofessional for [city leaders] to rush judgement over a 12-second video," said a union rep to CTV.
"Their careless, self-serving comments have driven the forum away from independent public opinion and taken away the facts and issues of the incident."
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