Laval hit with lawsuit after officer filmed pulling Black man out of car by hair

·3 min read
Laval hit with lawsuit after officer filmed pulling Black man out of car by hair

A 24-year-old year-old Black man is seeking $275,000 in damages from the City of Laval, alleging he was "humiliated" and "traumatized" during an encounter with local police last spring.

Samuel Bunche claims that on May 25, a Laval police officer, Maxime Ouimet, "used violence by pulling his dreads" and kneeing him several times in the face.

According to a court document filed on Nov. 30, the incident began when Bunche, his brother and a friend were in a car on their way to buy some water, and noticed they were being trailed by a police cruiser.

Several blocks later, the men were pulled over.

Bunche claims Ouimet informed them that by virtue of being three people in a vehicle, they were violating physical-distancing rules.

Bunche claims Ouimet went back to the police cruiser to verify his ID, and came back with several other officers.

It's at that point, according to Bunche, that things got violent. The altercation was caught on video.

Officers used "excessive force," screamed at Bunche and hit him in the face while handcuffing him, the court document says.

While sitting in the back of the police cruiser, Bunche claims Ouimet noticed him leaning toward the front seat, and told him to lean back.

In the court filing, Bunche claims the handcuffs made that impossible, and Ouimet told him that if he didn't comply, he would get hit with a "mean elbow."

Bunche and the other two people who had been stopped were ultimately let go and Laval police issued $1,500 tickets for violating physical-distancing guidelines.

WATCH | Samuel Bunche explains why he is suing Laval police:

Ouimet resigned from the police force, according to a message posted on his Facebook page on Oct. 7.

That same day, Laval police had announced they were investigating an officer's online statements that referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as a scam.

Ouimet can be heard making that claim during a television interview with TVA that he posted to his Facebook page. His page also includes other posts downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic.

'This is not the way to arrest somebody'

By taking the city to court, Bunche hopes to help prevent similar incidents from taking place.

He believes the officers judged him and the two other people who were with him based on their appearance.

"We got pulled over and they just see, [based on] the image, and they just assume what they want," he told CBC.

"That is something that's not supposed to happen at all. Even if you're right or wrong, this is not the way to arrest somebody."

Verity Stevenson/CBC
Verity Stevenson/CBC

The City of Laval and Laval police have not yet responded to comment requests.

In the days following last spring's incident, police spokesperson Sgt. Geneviève Major said, "the Laval police service does not have a racial profiling problem."

About two weeks later, Laval Mayor Marc Demers acknowledged that it was a problem, and vowed to implement changes including tracking such complaints.