Montreal police trained guns on car with two unarmed women of colour and four-year-old inside
MONTREAL -- For the second time in less than a week, Montreal police are being criticized for their treatment of people of colour after a video was widely shared showing an incident involving a young child.
A video that began circulating Thursday shows a young woman yelling at a group of officers for pointing guns in the direction of her four-year-old son after being pulled over Wednesday afternoon in Montreal's west-end NDG neighbourhood.
One witness says two women were stopped, calmly stepped out of the car and cooperated — but police kept guns trained at them and at the car, where a child sat in the backseat, for several minutes.
“This whole time they have their guns drawn at these women,” said Michelle Nittolo, who shot a video of the Wednesday incident from her high-rise apartment across the street.
“And then I see police officers remove a little boy from the car as well, who was no more than three or four years old. They still, again, have their guns drawn.”
A Montreal police spokesman says officers trained guns at the car because they had information the car could be linked to a series of armed robberies, so they considered it a “high risk” stop. The two women were released without charges.
The incident happened at the corner of Fielding and Mayfair Aves. in the Fielding-Walkley area of NDG. Police said it happened around 3:30 or 4 p.m.
Nittolo's video, posted on Facebook, shows three police cars and a police van pulled up at an intersection, with lights flashing. A white vehicle was pulled over at the side of the road, she said, and the officers were “all outside of the cars with their guns drawn.”
She could see that the two women inside “had their arms outside of the vehicle,” she said. “One of the police officers asked the driver to remove herself from the car, which she did, without hesitation.”
Police asked the woman to walk towards them, Nittolo said, “which she did, her arms in the air. At this point the guns are still pointed towards her and the vehicle.”
Police then told her “to turn around and walk backwards toward them, which she did, without hesitation again. Once she did, they handcuffed her and put her in the back of the car.”
The asked the same of the passenger in the car, Nittolo said, and she could hear the other woman asking them, “Why am I being arrested?”
They didn’t answer, and both women were put in the back of the cruiser together, handcuffed, where they remained for “at least 45 minutes” while police searched the car. The officers’ guns had remained drawn for at least five minutes, she said.
DRAWING GUNS STANDARD FOR 'HIGH RISK' STOPS: POLICE
Montreal police spokesman Raphael Bergeron told CTV that drawing guns is standard procedure in stops that are considered high-risk. The decision depends somewhat on the situation, he said, but in this case police thought there may be a suspect with a possible weapon in the car.
Police didn’t know a child was in the vehicle, Bergeron said. He said the two women were detained and asked questions and were later released. No charges were laid.
He said he couldn’t comment more because an investigation is ongoing.
Only after the long incident — somewhere around an hour later, when the women had been released — did the women begin to express their reaction, Nittolo said.
A separate video she posted on Facebook, shot by someone within a few feet of the incident, shows a young woman in shorts and a pink top yelling, near hysteria, at a large group of officers.
“You guys told me you have a warrant for my arrest, arrested me, showed me no warrant,” she shouts, “and then pointed a gun at my four-year-old son.”
While the women waited in the cruiser, Nittolo says, officers had removed the boy from the car.
“He seemed confused in the situation, obviously.”
At one point a woman and older man came running out of the building next to where the car was parked and tried to go towards the little boy, appearing to know him, Nittolo said. But officers told them to stay back.
Eventually they were allowed to comfort him, and "someone else came and removed the child from the situation and brought him inside,” she said.
She found it disturbing to watch, she said. Though the guns weren’t “directly pointed at the child…the child was in the car and the guns were pointed directly at the car,” she said.
“And when they removed the child… their guns were still drawn at that point.”
The fact that the two women had guns drawn on them at all, let alone for that long, considering their cooperative behaviour, was “absolutely obnoxious and very maddening,” she said.
People nearby were standing on their balconies and talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, she said. In the closer-range video, people can be heard heckling the police.
“I don’t know if the same situation would have happened in the same manner had it been two white women in the car, but it wouldn’t surprise me that it would have been a different situation,” Nittolo said.
Last week, a video that showed three Montreal police officers taking down a Black Montreal man inside his own apartment after he invited them inside - an encounter that left him bleeding - was also widely shared on social media.