hasani o'gilvie toronto

Black U of T student allegedly tasered by Toronto cops who insisted he was someone else

Less than two weeks after a 31-year-old Black high school teacher was tased by police in Los Angeles to the point of cardiac arrest, a Toronto family is going public with their legal fight against local cops, three of whom they allege used unnecessary force when wrongfully detaining a 27-year-old U of T student on his way to school.

The student, Hasani O'Gilvie, and his mother, Christine, are seeking a total of $1.6 million in damages from the Toronto Police Services (TPS) Board, as well as three individual TPS officers, for claims including assault, battery, negligent infliction of mental distress, pain and suffering, health care costs, loss of income past and future and breaching the Ontario Human Rights Code.

"On a warm sunny day in August 2021, Mr. O'Gilvie, a Black young man, was on his way to school at U of T, when he was stopped, questioned, assaulted, and wrongly detained by three TPS officers," said lawyer David Shellnutt, whose firm is representing the family, in a letter sent to TPS Police Chief in October.

"At best, this was a case of alleged mistaken identity and unnecessary force, but such incidents are more commonly understood by Black communities as 'walking while Black.'"

According to a June 2022, statement of claim shared by Shellnutt with blogTO this weekend, O'Gilvie had attended a plaza at 1603 Wilson Ave. in North York before heading to a local bus stop en route to school when he noticed a police cruiser following him.

The cruiser, allegedly driven by TPS Sergeant Rachel Saliba, is said to have continued following the student as he walked along the sidewalk. Fearing for his safety, O'Gilvie turned down a walkway between a No Frills grocery store and another building in the plaza.

"Defendant Sergeant Saliba drove her cruiser down the walkway after Mr. O'Gilvie, got out of the vehicle and started to question him. Mr. O'Gilvie provided his full name but the Defendant Sergeant Saliba did not believe him," reads the Statement of Claim.

"The Defendant Sergeant Saliba escalated the situation and drew her taser pointing it at Mr. O'Gilvie. Within seconds, the Defendant TPSB Constable Jilliane Baquiran arrived and both Defendant TPSB Officers physically detained Mr. O'Gilvie under threat of taser."

O'Gilvie's lawyers say the young man assured the officers all the while that he had not done anything wrong, putting his hands up and in front of him to show compliance.

The situation escalated and became more violent nonetheless, according to the claim, Constable Seth Rietkoetter arrived at the scene and "immediately tackled" the U of T student.

It is alleged that Rietkoetter placed his knee and leg on Ogilvie's neck, and that he began tasering the young man repeatedly. O'Gilvie is said to have had his hands behind his back at the time, restraints applied, not resisting arrest.

"Once Mr. O'Gilvie was completely restrained, the Defendant Officers unlawfully searched Mr. O'Gilvie's bag, wherein they found identification confirming what he had told the Defendant Sergeant Saliba before she attacked him," reads the Statement of Claim as submitted to the Ontario Court of Justice.

"The Defendant Officers apologized to Mr. O'Gilvie, released him from arrest and he fled to safety."

O'Gilvie was never charged with any offence, but claims his life was permanently altered that day.

"The Defendants' unlawful detention, assault, and harassment of Mr. O'Gilvie caused him to suffer nervous shock and emotional distress. The Defendants knew or ought to have known that Mr. O'Gilvie would suffer nervous shock and that their unlawful conduct in assaulting and harassing Mr. O'Gilvie in such a public place would cause nervous shock to him," reads the Statement of Claim.

"Mr. O'Gilvie continues to suffer anxiety, depression and physical and psychological injuries arising from the unlawful and negligent conduct of these Defendants."

According to Shellnutt, the young man also sustained severe physical injuries during the altercation, including facial scarring and soft tissue damage.

"Injuries to Mr. Ogilvie have been and will continue to be accompanied by chronic pain, weakness, stiffness, reduced range of motion, sleep dysfunction, fatigue, diminished energy and reduced stamina, emotional trauma including shock, stress, anxiety and depression, psychological changes, behavioural changes and cognitive deficiencies including but not limited to memory loss, poor attention, poor concentration and poor co-ordination," reads the suit.

"As a result of his injuries and ongoing symptoms and impairments, the ability of Mr. Ogilvie to participate in his usual activities of daily living has been severely compromised and will remain compromised for the remainder of his life."

Additional liabilities listed in the claim include abuse of public office, negligence, charter and human rights violations, vicarious liability, and negligent supervision and training.

None of these claims have been proven in court, nor will they get a chance to be until at least February, 2024, when the case is scheduled to be heard.

Shellnutt says he has seen footage of the incident as captured on police bodycam, but this footage has yet to be seen in court or made public. Toronto police are unable to comment on the case at this time.

"Mr. Ogilvie was violently taken to the ground and piled on by the three officers. One officer placed his knee on Mr. O'Gilvie's neck for an extended period... Mr. O'Gilvie was at no time a threat to anyone," said Shellnutt in his October letter to the newly-appointed Chief Demkiw.

"This incident happened just over one year after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in another officer knee-on-neck incident. Communities across the world were outraged at this injustice. Police departments, including TPS, promised to listen, learn, and change “in an effort to be more responsive to the communities we serve, including our Black residents."

"Within a year of Mr. O'Gilvie being harmed, on June 15, 2022, former TPS Chief James Ramer publicly apologized for anti-Blackness within the TPS that led to disproportionate incidents of use of force. The statistics in the TPS reports confirmed what Black residents have said for decades: that police use disproportionate and unnecessary force against Black people," the letter continued.

"We ask that you use Mr. O'Gilvie's example to send a clear and strong message to the Service... Those officers who recklessly used force against Mr. O'Gilvie must lose their authority to ever do so again."

Lead photo by

Desmond Cole

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