Nova Scotia’s police watchdog is now investigating an incident that left a woman with injuries after she was allegedly physically abused by officers in a Halifax Walmart.
Santina Rao says she was shopping at the Walmart on Mumford Road Wednesday afternoon when she was accused of “concealing items” while still shopping in the store.
On Thursday, Rao told Global News she placed a bag underneath her children’s stroller and was putting items into it as she shopped.
According to Rao, she paid for all her items at the electronics section except for her produce, which had to be weighed. After paying for those items, then stopping at the toy section, Rao claims she was approached by Halifax police officers and Walmart staff, who claimed she was “concealing items.”
Rao says she urged officers and staff to check her bag, but they declined and asked for her identification. When she declined, Rao said officers used “excessive force” to put her in handcuffs.
The 23-year-old woman says the arrest left her with a broken wrist, a concussion and injuries to her neck and arms.
Rao alleges she was a victim of racial profiling.
In an email to Global News Friday, Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. John MacLeod said the matter has been turned over to Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT), which investigates all allegations of police wrongdoing.
MacLeod said he can’t speak to specific cases, but confirmed that police attended the Walmart after receiving a report that a theft was in progress.
“Officers approached a woman who was believed to have concealed items. She became verbally abusive and was behaving aggressively,” police said Thursday. “The officers then attempted to place the woman under arrest for causing a disturbance. She resisted and assaulted one of the officers.”
According to police, the officer was taken to hospital for treatment and later released.
In an email to Global News, SiRT says it was made aware of the incident Thursday night.
“We began a preliminary review today to see whether the incident appears to be within our mandate,” said SiRT interim director Pat Curran in the email. “SiRT’s mandate includes incidents in which there is reason to believe the actions of a police officer may have resulted in serious injury to an affected person.
“If an incident appears to be within the mandate, SiRT conducts an investigation.”
Rao is scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court in February. She says she intends to fight the charges.
With files from Alexa MacLean and Aya Al-Hakim.