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Halifax woman alleges racial profiling at Walmart led to rough arrest
HALIFAX -- A Halifax woman says she was assaulted by police after a confrontation at a local Walmart and claims racial profiling is the reason she was arrested.
Santina Rao, 23, says a video shows her getting tackled by Halifax Regional Police officers while she was getting arrested Wednesday afternoon.
She says the altercation left her with bruises, marks from handcuffs, and a black eye.
Rao says this all started over some groceries.
"(I) use the basket underneath my stroller like I always have," said Santina Rao. "Literally every single time I've gone grocery shopping with my kids."
Rao says she was in the toy aisle of the store when three employees and two police officers came over to ask her about the food in her stroller.
"My coat was hanging over the railing of my stroller, so it's blocking the view a little bit," Rao said. "I moved the coat and I said, 'If you want to look, it's right there. I'm not hiding it.' He looked over like this and said, 'Yeah, the lemons, the grapefruit and the lettuce. People have tried to steal less.' But I'm not, because I just told you it's right there."
That's when Rao says one of the officers went to grab her arm.
The video was sent to Rao over Facebook.
It does not show the beginning of the altercation, but it does appear to show the officers tackling her, and Rao fighting back.
"He grabbed me again by my arm and pulled me more forcefully to pull my arm up behind my back between my shoulder blades," said Rao. "So yeah, I scratched him in the face."
Richard MacLean was also at the Walmart on Wednesday and says, at first, he didn't know what the commotion was about.
"I would just ask, if this was over a lettuce or chocolate bars, whatever it was over, allegedly, could this have been handled better?" MacLean said. "Did this need to happen right when it happened? Certainly the people around the store were nervous and nobody knew quite what was going on."
Halifax Regional Police confirmed in a news release that they received a report of a theft in progress at the Walmart on Mumford Road around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“Officers approached a woman who was believed to have concealed items," police said. "She became verbally abusive and was behaving aggressively. The officers then attempted to place the woman under arrest for causing a disturbance. She resisted and assaulted one of the officers."
Police say the officer was taken to hospital and later released.
Rao was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and assaulting a peace officer. She is due to appear in court at a later date.
As for her allegations, police say that they take allegations of this nature very seriously, and are looking into the matter closely.
Rao posted about the incident on Facebook and her post been shared hundreds of times.
She says she just wants police to listen.
"I tried very, very hard to show them proof over and over again and nobody wanted to listen, nobody wanted to see it, nobody wanted to have it," Rao said.
CTV News reached out to Walmart Canada, but they did not return repeated requests for comment.
Rao's supporters plan to protest outside the Walmart on Friday.
Rao says she won't attend the protest, because she's now banned from the premises, but she says she's speaking with a lawyer, and plans to file a human rights complaint against the Halifax Regional Police.