Hearing resumes for N.S. man alleging racial bias during 2018 arrest in Halifax park
Published Thursday, October 8, 2020 2:21PM ADT
Adam LeRue and Kerry Morris had filed a complaint against two Halifax police officers, alleging race played a role in LeRue being arrested and jailed after the couple stopped in the park to make a phone call. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Tutton)
HALIFAX -- A Halifax man is arguing in front of a police review board that his race played a role in his 2018 arrest and jailing after he and his spouse stopped in park to make a phone call.
The hearing resumed today after Nova Scotia's Police Review Board ruled the complaint by Adam LeRue, who is Black, and his spouse Kerry Morris, who is white, could proceed against two Halifax police officers.
LeRue's lawyer, Ashley Hamp-Gonsalves, told the hearing the officers overreacted after the couple pulled their vehicle into Halifax's Sir Sandford Fleming Park to make a cellphone call on Feb. 12, 2018.
She says the outcome would have been different had LeRue been white.
LeRue alleges he alone was targeted with hefty fines for failing to provide identification and for being in the park after it was closed when others seen in the area at the same time weren't punished.
Lawyers for the two officers, constables Brent Woodworth and Kenneth O'Brien, say the case is about LeRue's failure to answer simple questions rather than about alleged systemic racism in the police department.
LeRue was charged with obstruction of justice and taken to jail, where he says he suffered overnight because he didn't have access to his asthma medication.
James Giacomantonio, the lawyer for O'Brien, told LeRue during cross-examination that minutes before the incident, his client had stopped a white man driving in the park, and the man had provided identification and left.
LeRue replied he hadn't been aware of that, but said it didn't change his view that he had been mistreated.
He said he felt uncomfortable from the outset with O'Brien, in part because he said he had a series of negative experiences with Halifax police.
LeRue said when O'Brien pulled into the parking lot and shone his police car lights on his Range Rover, he had a, "'Here we go,' moment."
The complainant told the hearing that he refused the officer's request for identification and said he asked to see O'Brien's supervisor.
"He (O'Brien) could have just asked me to leave (the park)," LeRue said. "I could see he wanted something more than that."
LeRue said in the past, supervisors had come to the scene after he had been arrested and they had de-escalated tensions. The lawyers for the officers told the hearing today that the supervisor that night wasn't available, and that LeRue was informed of this.
Giacomantonio said LeRue had refused O'Brien's offer to sign a promise to appear in court rather than go to jail. LeRue replied that he didn't fully understand what he was being asked to sign and had refused.
He said he was angry and cursed at the officers during the arrest but said he didn't resist arrest or obstruct the officers.
"I was mad, I was very upset," he said, recalling his emotions as the officers searched his car. "I was angry. I'd seen a stranger (Woodworth) put a hand on my wife."
His voice broke as he described his 15 hours in custody, saying he sat up most of the night in a holding cell and his repeated requests for his inhaler were denied.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2020