Ontario Provincial Police Investigate Alleged Assault By Police Of First Nations Man On Video
A non-Indigenous officer with a First Nations-focused police service is being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police in an alleged assault that was caught on cellphone video, CBC News has learned.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) confirmed to CBC News that they were asked by the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS) to investigate the alleged assault, which happened in Slate Falls First Nation at the end of August. Slate Fall First Nations Chief Lorraine Crane said she was told by NAPS leaders that the service had asked the Ontario Provincial Police to conduct the external investigation.
The video of the alleged assault was heartbreaking to watch, Crane said.
« It really bothered me when they showed me the recording… It was really embarrassing for me as a leader to see that. »
CBC News has obtained three videos of the incident from the night of August 30, which appear to show a NAPS officer pressing a 24-year-old man against the side of a police van while trying to handcuff him. The officer suddenly hits the back of the man’s head, which appears to bounce off the side of the truck.
The man, James Masakeyash, then collapses face down and remains motionless, according to the videos.
« He lined me up, kicked me and threw me to the ground. I don’t remember what happened next, » Masakeyash said in an interview with CBC News.
WATCH: Cellphone video captures alleged police assault:
Masakeyash said when he came to, it was morning and he was in a cell.
He tells his story because he doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else, he said.
NAPS Police Chief Roland Morrison said he could not comment on the matter to avoid tainting the ongoing process.
« We are aware of the video, we have communicated with the leadership (of the First Nation) on how we are going to deal with it, » Morrison said.
Video shows alleged victim not resisting
Morrison said the officer is currently on hiatus and not part of the regular contingent at the detachment in Slate Falls, an Ojibway community about 400 kilometers northeast of Kenora, Ont.
NAPS patrols 34 First Nations in Northern Ontario, from the Manitoba border to the west coast of James Bay. In 2020, the force had 203 officers, about 60% of them Indigenous, according to the Canadian Press.
The three videos provided to CBC News are nearly four minutes long together and were filmed by a close acquaintance of Masakeyash and his family. The first video begins with the officer, out of frame, shouting at Masakeyash, who appears drunk, to « get up », that he « looked after you last night » and would drag him by the ankles.
Masakeyash then falls, tripping over his pants, which fell down his legs. Masakeyash, who was not initially handcuffed, struggles to pull his pants up as the officer berates him, the video shows.
“Get up, I’ll drag you,” the officer said. « Rise. »
It ends with Masakeyash finally getting up and stumbling towards the idling police van with its headlights on.
The second video picks up with Masakeyash facing the side of the police truck with the officer behind him, trying to handcuff him. The officer then punches the back of Masakeyash’s head and then throws him, face down, to the ground.
The third video, which is 53 seconds long, shows the handcuffed officer Masakeyash, who is lying on the ground and does not appear to move. It ends with the officer standing over the 24-year-old.
« You can see where he hit the truck and he’s thrown to the ground, » said Miriam Cook, Masakeyash’s sister, who is also a nurse and entrepreneur.
« You can tell my brother didn’t resist arrest… It upset me, I was very angry and hurt watching the video. »
Cook said she brought Masakeyash to her home in Thunder Bay to get him to a doctor and monitor for any symptoms of concussion. The officer should have been immediately suspended pending the outcome of an investigation, Cook added.
“He had no reason to do that”
Adam Carpenter said Masakeyash was home that night and his family called the police to make sure he got home safely. Carpenter said regular NAPS officers in the community will help people get home without incident if they’ve had too much to drink.
« We called, asked them to drive James home because he was drunk, » said Carpenter, 18.
« Usually the cops are nice people helping us out. That wasn’t the case this time, » Carpenter said. « [The officer] was aggressive, he was really mean, yelling a lot that night. »
Ivan Cook, 64, Masakeyash’s adoptive father, said he spoke with the NAPS officer the next day and took notes of the conversation. He said the officer claimed he hit Masakeyash because he took his police weapon – which is not apparent in the video.
He said he told the officer that Masakeyash was not the type of person to get aggressive in these situations.
« I still feel a little mad at that officer…I don’t think they’re trained to do that…He had no reason to do that at all. »