Black man handcuffed while getting into his own car suing Montreal police for $125K
A Montreal man, Brice Dossa, is suing the city's police force and two of its officers for $125,000 after he was wrongfully arrested and handcuffed last November while getting into his own car by two undercover officers who didn't identify themselves, then couldn't find the keys to uncuff Dossa after they realized their mistake.
Part of the incident was captured on cellphone video and shared widely online.
The video shows a clearly frustrated Dossa berating the officers as they finally uncuff him, after he was forced to wait 15 minutes while they located the keys.
"Two police officers with no uniform, no badge, just roughed him, cuffed him and then arrested him because they said it was a stolen car," Fernando Belton, Dossa's lawyer, said in an interview with CBC Wednesday.
WATCH | Brice Dossa asks police officers if they handcuffed him because he is Black:
"It was a really humiliating experience for him," said Belton.
Montreal police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The allegations have yet to be tested in court.
In a tweet following the incident, Montreal police said the officers believed the car was stolen because they saw damage near the locks typical of stolen cars.
Police said the officers were in the process of verifying if the car was stolen when they saw Dossa approaching the vehicle, and so they detained him temporarily while they finished their verifications.
CBC was able to independently verify after the incident that Dossa's car was new and there was no visible damage around the locks.
"We think racial profiling played a role in that arrest, in how fast the arrest went down and how little verification was done before he was arrested," said Belton.
Dossa diagnosed with PTSD after incident
The lawsuit filed Tuesday names the City of Montreal, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and two officers, Simon Thibault-Pelletier and Simon Bolduc, as defendants.
The suit claims the officers racially profiled Dossa, illegally arrested and detained him, used excessive force and were disrespectful.
Belton says Dossa, originally from Bénin, was traumatized by the incident and the aftermath.
"You have to understand he's never had the spotlight on him, and then this case was all over the news and he was recognized even by people in his home country," said Belton.
The lawyer said after the video went viral on social media, many people questioned why Dossa appeared upset.
"You have people who were saying: 'It's nothing, you know, you've been arrested, you'll be cuffed. Why don't you just get over it?'" said Belton.
"I think those kind of comments tend to undermine the issue of racial profiling and the trauma it can leave," he said.
Belton said Dossa, who was working full time as an orderly and part time as an Uber driver at the time of of the incident, was diagnosed with PTSD afterward. He missed two months of work after his doctor told him to take time off.
Dossa has no family in Canada. He travelled to Bénin in February to get emotional support from his parents, a trip Belton said he would not have taken if not for the arrest.
Dossa is seeking $20,000 in damages for lost income and travel costs, $30,000 for stress and inconvenience, $15,000 for pain and suffering, and $30,000 from each of the officers in punitive damages.
Belton said what was particularly frustrating for Dossa at the time was the way the officers behaved after they realized the car was his and they'd made a mistake.
"No apologies, just a nonchalant attitude which said: 'Why don't you calm down? Why don't you relax?'" Belton said.
WATCH | 'I was traumatized, humiliated,' Brice Dossa says:
Belton said the officers should have apologized on the spot.
"It means that you understand that there's a human at the end of the process that's been hurt, and that there's a problem in the way he was treated," he said.
"I don't think apologies should come after a settlement has been made, after a payment has been made, after a lawsuit," Belton said.
"When it comes early in the process, it helps people to move on," he said.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.