Black man who borrowed father's BMW questioned, forcibly arrested outside home

Author: Editors Desk, Arthur White-Crummey Source: CBC News:
May 13, 2024 at 08:53
Khadafi Keenan Fagan-Pierre stands near the spot where he was questioned by police on April 14, with his father's BMW E60 535 in the background. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)
Khadafi Keenan Fagan-Pierre stands near the spot where he was questioned by police on April 14, with his father's BMW E60 535 in the background. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

Khadafi Keenan Fagan-Pierre had just opened the door of a black BMW on the driveway of his home when he saw a Gatineau police cruiser make a U-turn.

It was Sunday morning, April 14. Two officers stepped out. One questioned him: "Is this your car?"

He said no. It was his father's car, after all. The father, who lives across the river in Ottawa, regularly lends his 2010 BMW E60 535 to his 31-year-old son.

"Well, whose car is it?" an officer asked next. Fagan-Pierre, who is Black and lives primarily with his mother on the Quebec side, felt like he was done with questions.

"Why do you need this information? Is the car stolen? Like, what's going on?" he remembers saying. "Why are you here?"

The answer he recalls hearing left him insulted. According to Fagan-Pierre, the officer said he looked "suspicious" getting into the car.

"In my head I'm thinking, OK, this looks like it's starting to be something racial," he said.

Shortly after that, Fagan-Pierre found himself forcibly arrested for reasons that remain unclear. He said police slammed him against the garage, punched him in the back of the head and kicked his leg. In his view, the force was "unreasonable." He said an officer pushed his face into the pavement and pressed a knee into his back, making it difficult to breathe.

He said it made him feel humiliated. He felt the encounter stemmed from racial profiling, as though a young Black man with dreadlocks didn't belong next to a BMW.

Racial profiling 'never tolerated': Gatineau police

Asked about the incident, Gatineau police confirmed they arrested a person at that time for obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty, and said the arrest "necessitated the use of force." 

Citing privacy concerns, police declined to provide any further information about the incident, including the specific kinds of force they used and how Fagan-Pierre is alleged to have resisted. They said they have submitted an accusation against Fagan-Pierre to prosecutors, who decide whether to lay charges in Quebec.

 

Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions has decided NO criminal charges are warranted against the Gatineau Police officers who were involved in an altercation with a Senegalese diplomat last year.
Gatineau police confirmed the arrest and said it 'necessitated the use of force.' (Michel Aspirot/Radio-Canada)

 

Gatineau police did respond to Fagan-Pierre's allegation of racial profiling.

"Racial profiling is never tolerated by [Gatineau police] and every officer or civilian employee who engages in racial or social profiling or makes inappropriate or discriminatory statements or gestures must face the consequences," spokesperson Rosalie Faubert said in a French-language statement.

She said Gatineau police are held to the highest ethical and professional standards, and listed numerous measures the force has taken against racial profiling including training, internal directives, a diversity action plan and collaboration with community groups.

Statistics show police forces across the country disproportionately apply force to Black people. In Ottawa, about one-quarter of people against whom police used force were Black, even though Black people make up just eight per cent of the city's population.

But Gatineau police, like many police forces in Quebec, do not publish any such data classified by race, and responded that it was not available when CBC asked for it. Faubert said it would involve examining each individual case file.

"It is however important to mention that force is used only when it is necessary and the ethnocultural origin of a person has no impact on the choice to resort to force," she said in French.

Mother witnesses 'aggressive' police action

According to Fagan-Pierre, the police officers who questioned him became defensive when he brought up race.

"I tried to express that this was racial profiling," he said. "That's when they shouted at me to 'shut up, this car belongs to a 70-year-old person and you don't look 70 years old.'"

His father, who was 69 at the time of the incident, lives in Ottawa and his car has Ontario plates, though police did not mention that as a reason for suspicion in their statement to CBC.

"This happens all the time — all the time — to people who look like me," said the father, Orrett Fagan, of what happened to his son. "I've experienced it before, but not to this level."

 

Three people
Orrett Fagan, Dian Pierre and Khadafi Keenan Fagan-Pierre at the Gatineau home where the arrest took place on April 14th. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

 

Fagan-Pierre said he asked the officers if he was arrested or detained, and was told he was detained.

He said the female officer walked toward the front door of the house. He said he turned and started walking in the same direction. At that point, he said, the male officer began yelling "watch out! watch out!"

Fagan-Pierre said he did not make any threatening gestures or statements that would explain what happened next.

"He runs up against me, grabs my left arm and then he just starts going crazy," Fagan-Pierre said. "He starts trying to break my wrist.... I was screaming, 'please, please stop.'"

He said the officer slammed him against the garage "aggressively." He said he felt a punch in the back of the head and kicks against the back of his knees.

His mother heard a bang, opened the door and stepped out of the house.

"I looked over where the noise was coming from, and I was petrified to see my son being pinned and rammed by two police officers struggling to put handcuffs on him," said Dian Pierre.

She said she did not see the punch that Fagan-Pierre described. But she said she witnessed her son being aggressively shoved against the garage door. She called it "shocking."

'It was excruciating pain'

According to Pierre, she told the officers that Fagan-Pierre was her son, that he lived in her home and that the car belonged to his father.

For a moment, the situation seemed to calm down. But Pierre said the violence soon resumed — and intensified. She said the officer again slammed her son against the garage door. In her view, there was nothing that explained why police resumed using force.

"Eventually, they're struggling on the car. Then he slammed him to the ground, his left knee on his back," she said, describing the officer's conduct.

She said the officer was holding his hand against Fagan-Pierre's neck and pushing it, saying "shut up."

"I'm massively confused and in trauma," she added, recalling that moment. "It was a very negative, jarring situation for me."

 

A woman
Dian Pierre witnessed the forcefull arrest of her son on April 14, calling it "jarring" and "shocking," (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

 

Fagan-Pierre said struggling to breathe was the worst part of the ordeal. He said it felt like 100 pounds were on his back. It lasted for about a minute, he said.

"It was excruciating pain," he said. "I felt like I couldn't even get a full gasp of air in my lungs…. I thought I was going to pass out in front of my mom, and I'm just screaming for this guy to get off me, let me breathe, please."

Both Pierre and her son remember the officer saying Fagan-Pierre was under arrest for kicking.

Asked if he ever struck the officer, Fagan-Pierre initially said "absolutely not."

"If I did strike them, it was in self-defence of me just moving my legs from the pain that was being inflicted on me that I had never felt in my life," he said.

"I'm not trying to resist arrest," he explained. "I'm just trying to not be thrown down on the driveway."

His mother said she did not see a kick, and said it could only have happened unintentionally since her son was not reacting with violence.

"To say he was fighting back at the officer, no," she said.

A neighbour who said she also witnessed the incident said Fagan-Pierre appeared to be resisting, but only in the sense of not cooperating, and was not in any way "fighting" with the police.

She said the arrest appeared to be "rough."

'The nightmare sits with me'

Fagan-Pierre said the violence left him with bruised and swollen wrists, as well as scratched up knees, elbows and shoulders. But he said the emotional wounds were worse than the physical ones. He said he's "psychologically scarred."

He said he is now chain-smoking and drinking every night to avoid thinking about the ordeal.

"That nightmare sits with me every night," he said.

He said he's speaking out about what happened to draw attention to what he sees as a pattern of injustice.

"Something needs to really change in the system," he said. "It ain't right. There's too many Black people that are being assaulted and are being brutalized for absolutely nothing."

He said the police officers involved in his arrest should face consequences and be dismissed from the force.

"Someone needs to be held accountable so that it doesn't happen again," he said.

The family has filed complaints through the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse and the Commissaire à la déontologie policière, a provincial body that handles complaints against police in Quebec. Fagan-Pierre said they are also considering legal action.

Faubert said Gatineau police have looked into the case and the available documentation, and are unable to conclude that the male officer committed any professional breach during the incident.

Pierre said she asked officers on the scene why they questioned her son, and received a disconcerting answer.

"She eventually told me that it's because of the way he looks and what he was wearing," she said. 

Fagan-Pierre said he was wearing a hoodie, a paisley scarf, ripped jeans and a hat.

Pierre said she still feels a chill whenever she sees police in Gatineau.

"I am totally shattered.... I am not the same person anymore. I have hate in my heart," she said.

"I am trying to make sense of all this unfairness."

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