Five Quebec City cops suspended, with pay, after violent video; second man beaten by police the same night
MONTREAL -- Quebec City's police force (SPVQ) said Tuesday that five officers have been suspended as part of the investigation into a violent altercation involving two Black teenagers that was caught on video.
"Following the events that occurred on the night of November 26 to 27, 2021 and as part of our ongoing investigation, the management of the SPVQ wishes to communicate the decision to suspend five police officers involved in the events," the force wrote on its Twitter page.
The officers are suspended with pay as per the force's collective bargaining agreement, the SPVQ said.
On the night in question, police officers held two Black teenagers -- a boy and a girl -- on the ground. Video shows officers hitting the boy, Pacifique Niyokwizera, and kicking snow in his face while on the ground, and seeming to drag the girl by her hair on the snow.
The controversial altercation sparked criticism from citizens and politicians alike with Premier Francois Legault and Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand calling for an investigation into the event.
However, Legault said he felt SPVQ and police eithics commission investigation was adequate and rebuffed opposition calls for a Qubec police watchdog (BEI) investigation.
Legault's deputy premier Genevieve Guilbault, who is public security minister, said the possibility of a BEI investigation remains, but for now it will go through the ethics commission.
SECOND VIOLENT INCIDENT FROM SAME NIGHT REVEALED
At the same time, the police force responded to a new uproar over a second violent incident in the same night, saying it had opened an internal investigation into that, too.
The other incident took place inside an upscale Italian restaurant in the Sainte-Foy area, between a group of officers and a white man in his late 20s.
It came to light on Monday, after one of the man’s friends posted a video on Facebook showing him being held down, punched and kneed by police, blinded by his shirt pulled over his eyes, on a floor covered in broken glass.
“All I saw was my shirt on my head and I saw a pool of blood. I was flipping out,” the victim, Jean-Philippe St-Laurent, told Le Journal.
“At one point I wondered if they were going to kill me there. I was getting beaten up and you don't know when it's going to stop.”
The paper reported that St-Laurent, 29, was at a restaurant called Portofino to celebrate a friend’s birthday when police began checking the vaccine passports of people in the restaurant.
They discovered in the process that one of St-Laurent’s friends wasn’t allowed to be in a bar, because of some sort of legal condition he was under – though St-Laurent said the friend had never been arrested and wasn’t in fact required to leave the bar.
He got a bit “stubborn,” he said, on his friend’s behalf, and police tackled him to the floor, where a glass had broken.
BROKEN NOSE, CONCUSSION
The video, which a friend posted to Facebook, shows officers jamming their knees into St-Laurent’s back repeatedly and punching him in the ribs while he lies face-down in the broken glass, with his torso naked and his face caught in fabric.
St-Laurent told Le Journal he spent the night in hospital and has a broken nose, a concussion and some other facial injuries. He gave the news outlet photos of himself immediately after the incident with his shirt covered in blood.
He hasn’t yet responded to CTV’s request for comment.
His friend who posted the video said he did so after seeing the news of Niyokwizera’s violent treatment by police.
“Friday night there was an altercation at the restaurant in Quebec between 3 police officers and a friend,” Sebastien Gauthier wrote in his post.
“Until morning I didn't really want to use social networks but this morning I see on Facebook that they had another altercation the same night around the same time with maybe an abuse of power.”
“Sharing in large numbers so that things change a little!!!”
The owner of the restaurant, Frank Bergeron, also told Le Journal that he thought the incident was “totally unnecessary."
St-Laurent said the squad involved was the GRIPP squad, reportedly the same one involved in Niyokwizera’s experience, which is specifically meant to address incidents in bars.
But Bergeron, Portofino’s owner, said he never called the squad about any kind of problem that night and they entered the restaurant on their own accord.
“For me, the reason for their presence remains unknown,” he told Le Journal.
“They say they're looking for specific things, specific clients, guns, but from there to beating up a client like that? It will never be necessary.”
In a tweet Tuesday, Quebec City police said they’re looking into the incident.
“We also inform you that a second internal investigation was initiated by the Professional Standards Unit for an intervention in a licensed establishment in the Sainte-Foy sector on the evening of November 26,” police wrote on Twitter.