Surrey RCMP is investigating, after two officers were filmed physically restraining a 16-year-old girl, as she lay crying and screaming in the street.
In an interview with Daily Hive, the teen’s father, Garry Auguste said the situation began as his daughter was waiting for a bus at the Newton bus loop on Friday, April 28.
It was around 4:40 pm, he said, and she was on her way to hand in a letter of permission from her parents at her new employers, so she could begin her first ever job.
But Auguste said his daughter told him that while she was waiting for the bus, she noticed an officer making his way towards her and “stepped aside” so as not to be in his way.
However, her father said, the officer continued to approach her.
“He was telling her he needed to take her to the mental institute, addressing her as Latoya, and saying he had a warrant for her,” Auguste said.
In response, he said, his daughter told the officer they had the wrong person, “but the officers continued to insist that she was their person,” he said.
At this point, Auguste said, his daughter was “kind of scared, so she stepped back and as she did, one of the officers grabbed her.”
At the same time, a passerby took a photo of the situation and began filming as well. The video was later posted on Facebook.
“It all happened so quick,” said Auguste. “There was no mention of, ‘What’s your name?’ or ‘Give me your ID.’ They just assumed they got the person they were looking for and took her down.”
As the video shows, his daughter screamed and cried in the street, with the two officers restraining her, until she finally convinced them to look at her ID in her bag.
At that point, said Auguste, they realized they had the wrong person, and let her go.
Auguste said his daughter then called her mom, who came with Auguste to collect her from the bus station. From there they went to the police station, “hoping to speak to a supervisor and open a complaint.”
Auguste said police attempted to question the girl, telling him he didn’t need to be there.
“The officer told her, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to charge you with anything,'” he said. “My daughter said, ‘Charge me with what? I’ve done nothing.'”
At that point, Auguste said, he was offered the explanation that officers had been looking for someone who matched the exact description of his daughter. He said he asked to see a picture of the person police were after, but they were unable to produce one.
Auguste said the situation was made more stressful by the fact that neither he, his daughter or his wife had ever had any interaction with police before.
“It was a stressful evening after that,” he said. In the wake of the incident, he and his wife took their daughter to get checked at the hospital, “because her hand was bruised and swollen.”
Auguste has now launched a formal complaint against the Surrey detachment for their handling of the incident.
He said the whole incident had a hugely negative impact on his daughter.
Auguste explained how excited his daughter was excited to start her first job, how she had “dressed up” and was happy.
But when he picked her up after the ordeal, “she looked really, really down. Her clothes were messy, her face was tired and it was a different look.”
The next day, Auguste recalled, “an RCMP officer came to the house to apologize and explain that they were investigating the incident.”
However, the teen’s father said, the whole situation is very upsetting and he would like to see more done.
“We’re asking them to publicly apologize because she did nothing wrong and they detained her for no reason,” he said.
He said the ordeal has also compromised his family’s trust in the Surrey RCMP. He says he doesn’t know if residents of Surrey should feel safe anymore when approached by an officer.
Auguste said he’s concerned about letting his daughter even do things like walk to school, lest she be mistaken for the wrong person by police again.
In a release, police called the incident a “case of mistaken identity.”
Officers were apparently looking for someone wanted on an arrest warrant under the Mental Health Act.
Police say after they checked her identity and learned the 16-year-old they apprehended was not in fact the person they were looking for, she was released.
According to the release, senior investigators have met with the girl’s family and continue to be in contact with them. Auguste confirmed this.
“It is extremely unfortunate that this situation occurred and we are certainly mindful of her young age and how upsetting this was for her and her family,” said Supt. Ed Boettcher.
“I can assure you that we have resources dedicated to investigating this incident and we are gathering information to address all of their concerns.”