All charges laid against a Halifax woman who says she was racially profiled during a controversial arrest at a local Walmart earlier this year were dropped Tuesday morning.
Crown attorney Jane McDonald-Mills told a provincial court judge there were "concerns about a realistic prospect of conviction at this time."
"Even if those concerns could be addressed, we have assessed the public interest factors and concluded the matter should not proceed any further. Accordingly the charges are withdrawn," she said.
Santina Rao suffered a broken wrist, concussion and bruising in the encounter with police on January 15 at the Mumford Road store. Two days later, video showing parts of the confrontation and arrest started circulating online.
Halifax Regional Police originally charged her with causing a disturbance, assaulting a peace officer, and resisting arrest.
When Rao was stopped and arrested she was shopping with her baby and toddler. She has said she was approached by police officers inside the store who accused her of trying to steal a head of lettuce, two lemons and a grapefruit that were in the bottom of her stroller.
Speaking to supporters outside the provincial court house in Halifax Tuesday morning, Rao said she broke into tears when learned about the Crown's plan to drop her charges.
Gordon Allen, Rao's lawyer has previously told CBC that Rao was asked for identification at the Walmart, which she showed to the officers. But then things escalated when the officers questioned Rao about her identification and one of them stood between Rao and her three-year-old daughter.
The video of the encounter shows Rao swearing at a police officer to get off her before one officer physically brought her to the ground as she struggled against him.
Two factors in Crown's decision
Before the Tuesday morning court appearance, Allen told CBC's Information Morning that he was expecting the two points of justification that the Crown delivered.
Allen said he, too, did not think there was a reasonable prospect of a conviction.
"We felt she was stopped without reason and in fact she was stopped contrary to what the Wortley report said and Justice Minister Furey said that there would be no more street checks."
Street checks, in which police collect and record citizens' identifying information, were deemed illegal in Nova Scotia last year after a landmark report by criminologist Scot Wortley confirmed that police officers in Halifax were conducting street checks on Black people at a rate six times higher than white people.
Last October, about seven months after the report came out, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey ordered police officers across the province to stop the practice.
Chief Dan Kinsella with the Halifax Regional Police has said he could not speak specifically to Rao's case, or whether she was being street checked when officers asked to see her ID, while the case is being investigated.
But he told CBC in June that those details will certainly come out, and "we'll make whatever steps we need to take, correction or otherwise when we move forward."
Allen said he believed "a lot of weight" would have been given to public interest in this case.
Rao's supporters have been lobbying the Public Prosecution Service to drop the charges. The case has also sparked renewed calls for an end to racial profiling by Halifax Regional Police.
More than 53,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Rao's charges to be dropped and for charges to be brought against the officers involved in her arrest.
Rao's case has been referred to the Serious Incident Response Team police watchdog. Allen said the SIRT investigation is complete, but the results have yet to be released.
Allen and Rao are planning to launch formal complaints against the three police officers involved, and civil action against Walmart and the city over Rao's injuries.
Allen said Rao "suffered some real injuries," and is still in treatment.
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