NEWS

Grenada police 'abuse' blamed for Toronto man's death

12/29/2011 09:05 EST | Updated 02/28/2012 05:12 EST

Authorities in Grenada say they have detained two policemen and reassigned all the officers at a police station where a Toronto man allegedly was beaten.

Police Commissioner Willan Thompson says the two unidentified officers have not been charged but are being questioned about the death of 39-year-old Oscar Bartholomew.

Relatives have accused officers of beating Bartholomew into a coma on Monday after he mistook a plainclothes female police officer for a friend and lifted her off the ground in a hug. Bartholomew died Tuesday.

Thompson said Thursday that all the officers at the St. David' s police station have been reassigned to unspecified positions.

Earlier on Thursday, the lawyer representing the Bartholomew family said the incident is a "national tragedy" caused by "the wanton abuse of police power."

Lawyer Derick Sylvester said Bartholomew, who was born in Grenada, died of multiple head fractures.

'It's atrocious, it's unspeakable'

“This has been a case of wanton police abuse of power," Sylvester said during an interview Thursday on CBC News Network. "This problem has been festering in this country for some time. I knew that one day that this would have actually occurred.

“It’s atrocious, it’s unspeakable, that something like that could happen within the confines of a police station.”

Police said they are conducting a fair investigation and an autopsy has been ordered, but Sylvester said Bartholomew's family want a separate autopsy conducted.

Sylvester also said the family has been prevented from viewing the body.

"We are not satisfied that the police in Grenada would conduct an investigation that is fair and unbiased," he said. “Our law in Grenada is clear. No weapon, including a baton or truncheon, should be used on the head of any person.”

The case has drawn the attention of Grenada's government, with the country's prime minister calling for a thorough investigation.

A brother in Mississauga, Solomon Hypolite, said Bartholomew was the "calmest, coolest, gentlest person I've ever known.

"In any situation where there's any conflict, he always opted for the peaceful option."

He said he hopes the body will be returned to Canada.

CBC's Steven Bull reported that the family is particularly shocked because Bartholomew's father and one of his brothers both served on the Grenadian police force.

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