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STM officers' conduct questioned after video shows man repeatedly struck at Villa Maria
The conduct of two STM agents is being called into question after a social media video surfaced showing them striking a man with batons at Villa Maria metro.
Nzo Hodges, the man who captured the altercation on film and posted it to Facebook on Thursday, says the passenger was approached by two agents and then pulled onto the platform at Villa Maria.
Hodges says there was a brief discussion between the agents and man, when the latter was abruptly thrown against the concrete wall and onto the ground.
After that, Hodges started filming.
“He wasn’t being aggressive – they were being aggressive with him,” he explained.
In the two-minute clip, the agents are briefly seen grappling with the man on the ground before he breaks away.
Dragged back down to the ground by the agents – lying on his back – the man puts his hands up and screams that he is in pain while a handful of onlookers watch.
Still on his back, with his head precariously close to the tracks, the man appears to surrender to the agents.
“Stop hitting me, please,” he is heard saying, curling into a protective stance just before one of the agents whacks him in the ankle with a baton.
The second agent then strikes with his baton, while the man peels back towards the edge of the platform just as a metro pulls into the station – horn blaring.
While the metro pulls in, the passenger is hit at least five times before fleeing – leaving his possessions on the metro statement.
The STM, when contacted about the incident, refused to give an interview.
In a statement, STM spokesperson Philippe Dery said “at first glance, and according to the information we have at this time, everything was done in compliance [with STM regulations].”
“In such circumstances, it must be known that the level of force used is always in response of the level of cooperation of the person being questioned,” Dery said.
According to Dery, the SPVM were called to assist because the man was bothering people on the metro.
Another witness to the altercation, however, told a different story.
Samantha Gold rode the metro 11 stops, from Sherbrooke to Villa Maria on the orange line, while the man stood a short distance away.
Both witnesses heard that the man was dribbling a basketball either inside the metro or on the platform, but Gold says nothing about his conduct or posturing on the metro drew any attention.
Gold was reading when she noticed two agents approach the man “with purpose.”
“I saw them address a man who was holding a ball of some kind,” she said. “[They were] speaking to him, questioning him somewhat aggressively. I felt something in the pit of my stomach, knowing something was going to happen.”
“I strongly debated whether to interfere,” she added.
When the passenger was pulled out at Villa Maria, Gold stood by while Hodges filmed.
“I see this guy trying to wriggle out of their grasp – he’s being hit by the security guards, he’s being tackled, and he’s yelling ‘stop it, stop hitting me, ca fait mal,’” she explained. “I was horrified – I felt like he was unfairly targeted, and I feel like the STM security guards were too quick to violence.”
“My heart was racing, and I was scared – scared for the man,” Gold said.
When pressed, the STM said it is not forbidden to have a basketball in one’s possession on the bus or metro, but that the man violated rules by “engaging in conduct that interferes with the free movement of any person or persons.”
“In addition, the person did not have a ticket in his possession and refused to cooperate with our inspectors,” Dery added via email.
The man fled the metro and left his possessions on the platform - including the basketball - which were collected by the STM.
According to Montreal Police, no charges have been filed.
Gold says she saw nothing during her metro ride that would have prompted such a brusque response.
“I really didn’t notice him until STM security approached him,” she said.