WATCH ABOVE: Waseem Khan filmed police tasering and arresting a suspect wanted for assault Tuesday morning. As Khan filmed the incident while standing a short distance away on a sidewalk, two officers threatened to seize his phone as evidence.
Toronto police are investigating after a video shared by a man appeared to show an officer Tasering and planting his foot on an assault suspect as he yelled, “Stop resisting,” before two other officers threatened to seize the man’s phone while he recorded the arrest.
The incident happened on Dundas Street East, east of Church Street on Tuesday morning.
Officers were called to Seaton House, a nearby homeless shelter, with a report of a man spitting on a male staff member, Toronto police Const. Victor Kwong told Global News.
The man was gone by the time police arrived, he said.
A female officer found the man and he then allegedly spat on her and punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground, Kwong said.
A construction worker came to help her when the man assaulted the worker and bit him in the face, requiring the worker to be treated in hospital.
Other officers arrived and put the suspect in the police car, but Kwong said he kicked out the cruiser window and police officers then removed him from the car, which he said is a policy requirement because of broken glass.
It was around this point that Waseem Khan, who was driving by the scene with his wife, saw the incident unfolding. He exited the car to see what was happening while his wife left.
“This guy was laid out completely flat. He was not moving. He was not making a sound. As far as I could tell, he was not resisting anything,” Khan told Global News on Tuesday night.
Khan filmed a minute-and-a-half video from a sidewalk a short distance away.
The video shows a man lying down on the road, surrounded by multiple police cruisers. Three officers can be seen standing over him. The sound of a Taser is heard before a male officer gestures in Khan’s direction.
“Move back, sir, if you want to be a witness. Move back,” the officer, who appears to be holding a Taser, can be heard saying.
“I’m not obstructing your arrest. I’m not involved in the investigation,” Khan replied.
A female officer is then seen walking up to Khan.
“Guys, just please let them do what they need to, OK?” she said, before the sound of a Taser is heard again.
“I’m not getting involved. I’m not getting involved,” Khan said.
The male officer can be seen repeatedly planting his foot on the man as he yelled, “Stop resisting!”
“Get that guy out of my face, please,” the male officer said while pointing at Khan.
The female officer then returns and waves at Khan. As Khan and officers move back, he told police he’s a witness.
“OK, well if you’re a witness then we’re going to be seizing your cell phone,” the female officer said.
Before the video ends, a second male officer said, “He’s going to spit in your face, you’re going to get AIDS. Stop recording or I’m going to seize your phone as evidence and then you’re going to lose your phone.”
Khan later said the comments by the second male officer “really disturbed” him.
“They obviously viewed this person in a certain way and it’s evident through this officer saying that, ‘He’s going to spit on you and you’re going to get AIDS,’ like he’s some sort of disgusting person. I don’t know if the officer knows this, which he should know, is that you don’t get AIDS from someone spitting on you,” he said.
“It’s just really disgusting and it really bothered me to see the way that he spoke about it.”
Khan questioned the use of force by officers in this incident. He said he felt police were “very, very aggressive” with the suspect.
“They were just about to zip-tie his legs and they could have tied him and put him in the car, but instead they decided to stand on this guy and tase him over and over and over again,” he said.
“I thought it was very excessive and then the fact that this police officer was obviously agitated by me recording and he scared me off like very tactfully, makes me feel like they just got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.”
Khan shared the video with multiple media outlets Tuesday and he said the response has been generally positive, but he said some people wanted to know what happened before and after the video.
Khan said he also received negative messages, including a concerning message from one man.
“He hopes my kids get attacked by criminals and then I have to call the police officers to help me and that I should call Black Lives Matter to help me then. Scary stuff, but I guess in this day and age you almost expect it,” he said.
Khan said he wants to see the officers involved held accountable for what happened and called for “systemic change.”“They obviously have no qualms scaring me off on video, telling me to leave, when I’m just fulfilling my civic duty recording these guys to let the public know what’s happening,” he said.
“Part of me, I feel kind of hopeless … part of me feels hopeful. You know there’s a lot of great organizations and people working to help change this. Black Lives Matter is doing a lot of good work. I think it’s important that change happens not just to these individual police officers, but it happens systemically.”
The whole incident is under review, Kwong said in an emailed statement.
“The message has been sent to officers that, in today’s day and age, people will have video recording capabilities. Unless they are obstructing, interfering, or otherwise prohibited to do so, they are allowed to record,” he said.
“The Service understands the concerns, and that is why the entire incident, including what led up to the incident, is under investigation by Professional Standards.”
Kwong said during one of the Tasering incidents, it didn’t affect the man as it hit his clothes. He said the 45-year-old suspect didn’t have major injuries and that he was taken into police custody. The man is scheduled to appear in a Toronto court Wednesday morning.
Story by Nick Westoll, Global News. Gabby Rodrigues contributed to this report