Warning: This story contains strong language and details that readers may find disturbing
An officer with the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS) has been placed on administrative duties after a video emerged that appears to show him striking and throwing a man to the ground in Slate Falls First Nation.
The video, which began circulating on social media earlier this month, is one of three clips documenting the encounter between the NAPS officer and 24-year-old James Masakeyash that were shared with Dougall Media by Miriam Cook, Masakeyash’s sister and a member of Slate Falls First Nation.
In an emailed statement, NAPS said the incident, which occurred on Aug. 30, has been referred to the Ontario Provincial Police for investigation.
The first clip, which runs 2 minutes and 29 seconds, shows the interaction between the NAPS officer and Masakeyash as they apparently emerge from a home and proceed toward a police vehicle.
The pair are off screen at first, but the officer’s voice is clear in directing Masakeyash to “get up,” adding, “I fucking dealt with you last night. Okay? ... I'm not putting up with this crap."
The officer then tells Masakeyash to stand up, "or I'm grabbing your ankles and dragging you down there."
The middle of the clip shows Masakeyash falling to the ground after tripping on his pants which were at his ankles. He pulls them up.
The second clip, which has circulated widely on social media and runs 32 seconds, shows Masakeyash with the officer at the police pick up truck.
At one point, while Masakeyash is standing facing the truck and after words are exchanged between the two men, the officer appears to strike Masakeyash in the head and then throw him to the ground.
The final clip runs 54 seconds, and shows the officer kneeling beside Masakeyash, who is lying on the ground.
Cook said she was up north working so wasn’t in the community on the night of Aug. 30 when the incident happened.
She reported the officer was initially called to give Masakeyash a ride home from a friend’s place after a night of drinking.
“I have no idea why the officer would have done that," she said. "It breaks my heart to see that happen, and it’s very hard to watch it.”
Cook said her brother’s girlfriend shot the footage.
“I’m very thankful that we do have the video footage [from] the night this happened," she said.
After seeing the videos, Cook contacted NAPS and the Slate Falls Chief and Council, who requested the officer be removed from the community.
The officer has been removed and placed on administrative duties, NAPS stated.
Cook said the video has generated a great deal of anger. She hopes it will also generate change.
“We’re hoping for fair treatment, moving forward, and hoping proper justice is brought forward," she said.
Jason Storkson, president of the NAPS police union, said the union couldn’t comment on the incident because it’s under investigation.
However, he said the situation shows the need for body cameras for NAPS officers, as well as the need for more police officers in remote communities.
Cook said the family is cooperating with the OPP as they conduct their investigation. “I have many unanswered questions about what else took place,” she said.
Her brother doesn’t remember much about the incident, she said – only that he woke up in detention the next day and was released without any charges.
“My brother is not doing that great right now," she said. "Emotionally it was traumatizing to him. [He] doesn’t like seeing the video.”
“He does have some pain… We’re waiting to follow up with another doctor next week.”
Cook said she wanted to use the incident to speak up on behalf of everyone who may have encountered something similar, and protect First Nations youth from officers who use excessive force.
“I’m sure there’s more out there,” she said. “I want people to not be afraid to speak up if they’ve ever encountered something like this. I’m sure there’s a lot of stories that go untold.”
Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source