Toronto police officers sued over alleged assault of Black university student


David Shellnutt, left, and the parents of Hasani O’Gilvie

Hasani O’Gilvie, a Jamaica-born student of the University of Toronto, and his mother, Christine O’Gilvie, are suing three Toronto police officers for allegedly assaulting the student in August 2021 while he was on his way to school.

The student and his mother are seeking $2.4-million in damages as well as $250,000 under the Family Law Act, according to a statement of claim filed in the Superior Court of Justice.

At a news conference in Toronto on Monday, David Shellnutt, the student’s lawyer said “this is a case of someone being assaulted for walking while Black.

“He looked like somebody who police alleged they were looking for.”

“Regardless of mistaken identity of who they were looking for, that this matter ended up with a young U of T student with a knee on his neck, the same manoeuvre that killed George Floyd just a year prior, and being repeatedly stunned by the same officer who was doing that is unacceptable,” Shellnutt said.

According to the claim against the three officers, O’Gilvie gave his name to an officer who stopped him for questioning after following him down a walkway near a grocery store in North York. The claim alleges the officer did not believe him and drew a stun gun shortly before two other officers arrived.

O’Gilvie put his hands up and complied but the officers allegedly tackled him to the ground, the claim says. One officer then allegedly put his knee on his neck and repeatedly shot him with a stun gun while O’Gilvie “was subdued, not resisting, on the ground, and restraints being applied,” the claim alleges.

It also alleges that O’Gilvie was only released after the officers searched his bag and found identification proving what he told police.

According to the claim, Hasani O’Gilvie continues to suffer severe emotional and psychological trauma from the alleged assault, which left him with facial scarring and injuries to his upper body.

Last June, Toronto Police Chief James Ramer apologized to the city’s Black residents as he released a report with previously unseen race-based police data which showed that Black people in the city faced a disproportionate amount of police enforcement and use of force in 2020 and were more likely to have an officer point a gun at them – whether perceived as armed or unarmed – than white people in the same situation.