Nearly 10 years after four Black teens were accosted by police on their way to a neighbourhood mentorship program in Toronto, two of the officers involved have been found guilty of misconduct.
In a Toronto Police professional misconduct hearing decision released Friday, Const. Sharnil Pais and Const. Adam Lourenco were found guilty of unlawful arrest. Lourenco was also found guilty of one count of discreditable conduct.
The charges stem from the arrest of three 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old on Neptune Drive in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood in November 2011. Lourenco and Pais drove up in an unmarked van, stopped the teens and asked them for identification — a practice known as “carding,” which is now banned in many situations.
In an interview with CBC News in 2016, one of the complainants said he asked the officers if he and his friends were under arrest.
The answer was no and the teen proceeded to try to leave.
“That’s when Officer Lourenco decided to single me out and physically attacked me. He grabbed me. Then isolated me. He swore at me and said a lot of provocative things to try to aggravate me and I didn’t respond,” the complainant said.
Neither he nor the others involved can be identified because they were underage at the time of the incident.
Since then, one of the four teens dropped out of the proceedings, while another, Yohannes Brhanu, was killed in a 2018 homicide that remains unsolved.
WATCH | Surveillance footage captures arrest of four teens on Neptune Drive
Video footage from Toronto Community Housing captured the minutes that followed, showing one of the officers hitting the teen. When the teen’s twin and two friends approach to stop the officer, the officer draws a gun and points it at them, the video shows.
When Lourenco tried to arrest one of the young men, one yelled, “F–k you,” and spat in Lourenco’s face, Pais told a hearing in 2018, adding he thought the teens would “attack.” The complainant denies spitting at the officer.
All four of the teens were arrested and charged, and later strip-searched at a police station.
The charges were eventually withdrawn.
While Lourenco was found guilty of two of the charges against him, he was found not guilty of one other count of discreditable conduct.
In a statement, a lawyer for the complainants, Jeff Carolin, said his clients were “disappointed” that the hearing officer “did not find any indications of racially biased actions on the part of any of the parties.”
“In my opinion, this is part of a broader pattern, which demonstrates that justice in cases involving systemic racism is not easily found inside courtrooms,” the statement said.
Nevertheless, he said, the facts of the case speak to the “trends as to how systemic anti-Black racism and unconscious bias manifest in individual encounters with police.”
As for his clients’ reaction to the decision: “They were in general disappointed in the outcome,” Carolin said, adding they strongly believe race was a factor in the case.
“I think overall their reaction was … ‘this doesn’t feel like vindication.”
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