Province orders new probe after second video with violent Quebec City police altercation goes viral
QUEBEC CITY -- Quebec's public security minister has ordered a second ethics investigation into the Quebec City police over another video of a violent altercation.
Genevieve Guilbault announced Wednesday she's asking the police ethics commissioner to look into the incident Friday evening, where a white man was injured by police in a restaurant in the city's Ste-Foy district.
Quebec City police had announced an internal probe into that second video, which began circulating this week, but Guilbault wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning that, as in the first case, she wanted it looked at independently.
"The images which circulated yesterday are worrying and this event must also be examined independently," she wrote.
Later Wednesday morning, she told media that the ethics commissioner will probe if there could possibly be a criminal element to the police's actions. The report will likely be available in six months.
The video, which a friend posted to Facebook, shows officers jamming their knees into a man'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.
“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.”
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.
In a news conference in Quebec City, Mayor Bruno Marchand said he has confidence in chief of police Denis Turcotte.
“The images are shocking and troubling, the investigation is underway and I’m reassured by the investigation,” he said, adding that “we can’t put all our police in the same baskets.”
Marchand told reporters he is satisfied with all the investigations underway and in the police chief's handling of the incidents.
"It was definitely a bad night," Marchand told reporters Wednesday. "When we see the sum of what happened in the same evening, it is very worrying."
St-Laurent's experience happened just hours before Quebec City police were involved in the violent takedown of young Black people early Saturday.
Video circulating online showed officers hitting, dragging and pinning at least two Black people on the ground -- an 18-year-old man and a young woman.
On Tuesday, Quebec City police suspended with pay five police officers involved in that altercation. A spokesperson for the Quebec City police said three of the five suspended officers were involved in both violent arrests.
Guilbault said she saw no reason to treat the second incident differently than the first one. It came to light because of the original outcry, with St-Laurent's friend writing on Facebook that he saw the news of the Black teen's treatment and wanted to show people there was a pattern.
"Of course I would have preferred not having to do that," Guilbault said of involving the Ethics Commissioner.
"But I think it was my responsibility to make sure that all light is shed on this second intervention as it will be shed on the first one. So I asked the same person to do exactly the same examination of the second intervention -- I asked him today," she said.
"And so he will give me a report when his work is completed."
POSSIBLE LAWSUIT AGAINST POLICE
Niyokwizera's lawyer, Fernando Belton, says he also represents a second teen, a 16-year-old girl, who was also on the video being dragged by her hair by police.
Belton said in an interview Wednesday that neither of his clients have been charged, adding that they are looking into filing a lawsuit against the city.
"Anyone who has seen the video can see this for themselves," Belton said. "Whatever we accuse him of -- and for the moment, it's nothing -- nothing justifies this type of intervention (and) the force used."
Niyokwizera was recovering from a concussion and wasn't available for an interview, Belton said. "It's a situation that's very difficult for him as well as his family."
Belton said Niyokwizera's arrest and the way his client was treated are examples of racial profiling.
"When police intercept a racialized person, why do they use so much force?" he asked. "Why are they obliged to keep hitting them after they've been brought under control, degrading them by kicking snow in their face?"
--This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 1, 2021. With files from CTV News Montreal's Selena Ross and Amy Luft.