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Nova Scotia police watchdog to investigate Halifax police involvement in Santina Rao assault

Click to play video 'Halifax mother says she was physically assaulted by Halifax police' Halifax mother says she was physically assaulted by Halifax police
A Halifax mother says she was physically assaulted by Halifax police after being falsely accused of shoplifting, and she says she was targeted because of her colour. Alex MacLean reports – Jan 16, 2020

Nova Scotia’s police watchdog has announced they will investigate an incident that Santina Rao says left her with a broken wrist, a concussion and injuries to her neck and arms.

Rao, 23, alleges she was physically abused by Halifax Regional Police (HRP) after she was accused of “concealing items” while at a Walmart on Mumford Road last week.

The mother of two told Global News she placed a bag underneath her children’s stroller and was putting items into it as she shopped.

READ MORE: Halifax mother alleges she was racially profiled at store, ‘aggressively punched’ by police officer

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 and then stopping at the toy section, Rao claims she was approached by HRP officers and Walmart staff, who claimed she was “concealing items.”

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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.

A video shot by a bystander shows Rao being thrown to the ground. It has been widely shared on social media.

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Concerns over police budgets, racial profiling raised at board of police commissioners in Halifax – Jan 20, 2020

Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) says they will now investigate the incident after the matter was referred to them by the Halifax Regional Police.

SiRT’s mandate is to investigate incidents that may have “led to serious injury or death, or where those actions may raise a significant public interest.”

“After some initial investigation, it has been determined, based on medical records, the matter meets SiRT’s mandate,” the organization said in a press release late on Tuesday.

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READ MORE: Halifax police Chief Dan Kinsella addresses alleged police assault of Santina Rao at meeting

The investigation will be lead by Pat Curran, the independent civilian interim-director of SiRT.

Curran is asking anyone who may have witnessed the incident to contact them at 1-855-450-2010 and provide any information they may have.