A video posted to YouTube showing what appears to be a Montreal police officer punching a young man in the head at a McDonald’s may have attracted thousands of views online, but it's also lacking context, say Montreal police.
Jeriann Ogilvie-Louissaint, 15, captured the incident on video using her phone a few days before Christmas at a McDonald’s location in downtown Montreal. She began filming after she noticed some trouble brewing between a loud group of young men and the restaurant’s manager.
The video shows a confrontation between two police officers and a group of young men who had been asked to leave the restaurant by the manager after causing disturbances and not buying anything.
Ogilvie-Louissaint says the manager confronted the group by herself before calling police.
“She was telling them to leave. ‘Can you guys please leave? You guys do this every Friday and Saturday. Can you guys please go?’” says Ogilvie-Louissaint.
“They were like, ‘Oh no, we’re not going anywhere,’” she continues.
Ogilvie-Louissaint says the young men then dared the manager to call the police on them.
“Before the police came, they were really acting up. When the police came, they were kind of calm. I think they must have seen the car outside or something,” she says.
“Before that, they were acting up [enough] for her to call the police. But it was still shocking how the police reacted to it.”
Simon Guertin, 18, alleges he was on the receiving end of the police officer’s fist.
“He pushed me and I pushed him back and I said, ‘Why did you push me?’ and he just punched me in the face. And after I was like, ‘What do you want?’ And he said, ‘Do you want another one?’” Guertin says.
He says he had to ice his bruises and go to the clinic following the punch.
Filing police complaints
Ogilvie-Louissaint says her mother encouraged her to post the video to YouTube because she was concerned both about the police officer’s behaviour, and her daughter’s safety.
“You could have been getting up to get a drink and you could have been in the circle and he could have mistaken you and grabbed you,” Ogilvie-Louissaint says.
Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière of Montreal police wouldn’t comment on the video, but said the force will be investigating.
He says this video, unlike the one posted to YouTube last week of a police officer threatening to tie a homeless man to a pole in the cold, leaves a lot of unanswered questions as to the context of the confrontation.
“We do see a part of the intervention, but we don't see all the intervention itself. That's the reason why there's an investigation now. We'll try to find out what happened,” Lafrenière says.
He says sometimes violence is a necessary part of the job.
“As you know, our job is to do police work,” Lafrenière says. “We don’t do things because they look good. We do things because we have to do so.
“If you’re asking me, ‘Can it happen, as a police officer during your duty, to hit someone, to push someone?' Yes it can happen. Sometimes it is appropriate, sometimes it is not. That’s the reason we want to see the whole context,” he continues.
Lafrenière says posting videos to YouTube is not the best way to make a complaint against the police. He says although it was posted online Dec. 22, the force only became aware of it two days ago.
He says people can use the Police Ethics System to file complaints.