A Black digital media specialist said when he picked up a letter opener a child dropped three Canadian cops pulled their guns out on him in front of his 8-year-old son.
Hèzu Kpowbié, 42, told CBC News he used his cellphone to record the encounter Sept. 15 at Parc du Moulin in the Montreal suburb of Repentigny.
“I honestly thought that I could be killed,” he told the news outlet. “I pulled out my phone and started recording, so if something happened to me, at least people would know what happened.”
Kpowbié told the Montreal Gazette he takes his son to the park every week, so when the child and two other friends asked him to go while playing with toy cars outside their home, the group went on their usual walk.
When they arrived, the kids started riding their bikes and Kpowbié saw something he later identified as a letter opener fall out of one of the children’s pockets, he told the newspaper.
The child explained he had been carrying the tool to fix a toy, so Kpowbié picked it up, put it in his own pocket and told the child he would keep it while the children played, the Gazette reported.
Kpowbié told the newspaper he was sitting on a bench watching softball when a police officer approached him, pointing his gun and demanding he “drop the knife.”
Two other officers later joined the responding officer.
“I was completely in the dark,” Kpowbié told the Gazette. “I didn’t know what was going on and whether it was me they were pointing at or someone else.”
“I was looking around and wondering ‘What have I done?'” he added.
Kpowbié told the Gazette that at that point he threw the letter opener on the ground, told police he didn’t have a gun and let them search him.
Still, the officers ordered him to kneel and lie on his stomach so they could handcuff him, Kpowbié told the Gazette.
Kpowbié’s two-minute-20-second cellphone footage started after police initially approached him.
One officer can be seen aiming a gun at Kpowbié just feet away from a child riding his bike.
At another point in the video, police accused him of resisting arrest while they were handcuffing him, the Gazette reported in an English translation of the video.
Kpowbié told the officers they don’t have to get guns, and he asked why three police officers were needed.
“Stop fooling around,” the officers said repeatedly.
Kpowbié said when he asked officers why they used so much force, his back was hurting because one of the officers was pushing his knee into it.
“Stop resisting,” the officer said, according to the Gazette
Kpowbié responded that he wasn’t resisting and asked the officer, “What does resisting mean to you?”
“It’s when someone is stiff like you,” the officer responded in the video.
Officers ended up putting Kpowbié in the back of police cruiser and giving him a $150 ticket allegedly for carrying a weapon, the Gazette reported.
Kpowbié told the newspaper he plans to fight the ticket.
The Center for Research-Action on Race Relations also plans to launch complaints with Quebec’s police ethics commission and the human rights and youth rights commission, according to the Gazette.
“I could have been shot and riddled with bullets,” Kpowbié said at a press conference the Center held Sunday.
Kpowbié said his son was traumatized and has nightmares and that even as an adult, Kpowbié is often afraid to leave the house, the Gazette reported.
Center director Fo Niemi told the Gazette one of the Repentigny police officers involved in the incident, Mathieu Gaudreau, was also involved in a previous profiling incident in July 2017.
The center is already representing five Black men from Repentigny in 10 racial profiling complaints to the Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights and the Police Ethics Commissioner, the Gazette reported.
“This is a very grave incident that could have been fatal for Mr. Kpowbié,” Niemi said.