'The boy was racially profiled': Family seeks help after police mistakenly swarm teen

·2 min read

A Toronto family is asking for the public's help after police swarmed a teenage boy last week, mistaking him for a suspect in a high-profile kidnapping case.

On March 31, police in Peel Region, which neighbours Toronto, received information about the location of Kwami Garwood, who is wanted for allegedly kidnapping a 23-year-old woman in Brampton, Ont., last week, the force said in a statement on Monday.

"We are extremely upset, stressed and anxious about the entire incident. There has been a lot of sleepless nights and tears since the incident," said the teen's mother in an email statement. The 17-year-old teenager was on his way to McDonald's when police rammed his rental car and dragged him out of the vehicle, handcuffing him facedown on the ground, said a family spokesman.

"The boy was racially profiled," said David Bosveld, the teen's godfather.

"(He) looks nothing like their suspect. They're not in the same weight class, (they're) different types of builds."

Peel police believed Garwood, who is also wanted by Toronto police for an unrelated homicide in July 2020, was in a vehicle in Toronto, the force said, adding that they asked the local force to help make a "high-risk arrest."

Officers had acted in good faith on what it calls credible information, police said.

Bosveld said the boy is not only traumatized from his interaction with the police but suffered physical injuries, including bruising, lacerations on his face and an injured leg.

"They're not serious to the extent that he really needs to remain hospitalized, but he's traumatized," he said.

Police said on Monday that the teen wasn't injured in the arrest and was only taken to a local hospital as a precaution.

Megan, the boy's mother, said she was wondering what caused her son to end up in the hospital when she was called in.

"I was extremely worried for his well-being," she said.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for legal action and counselling for the teen.

"They need to be held accountable for their actions. My son could have ended up dead because of it. From the forces' negligence, my son will never be the same," said Megan.

She said the police's source was in no way credible but likely biased, calling the incident "a textbook definition of profiling."

"We want full accountability and justice for my son and the harm to our community repaired. And we never want to see this happen to another Black child again."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press