The trial has begun for Det. Christopher Hutchings, a Toronto police officer charged with assault and attempting to obstruct justice in relation to the arrest of a Black man on December 13, 2019, on a TTC bus in Scarborough.
At the trial, surveillance video was shown which appears to show Hutchings entering the bus and approaching the suspect, who police had been called to investigate for “disorderly conduct.”
The video, which is silent, showed Hutchings pushing the man, who is Black, was later identified as Chase Richards.
The plainclothes officer could then be seen grabbing Richards neck and holding him in what the Crown called a “chokehold” before throwing Richards to the floor of the bus.
Hutchings can then be seen putting his foot on the suspect’s back. At one point sitting down on a seat in the bus before eventually handcuffing him.
Richards was charged with disturbing the peace and mischief, but the charges were withdrawn the following month.
Hutchings was charged with assault in January 2020 and has been suspended with pay.
After further investigation, Toronto police laid the additional charge of attempting to obstruct justice in July and laid the same charges against Det. Tanouye, his partner at that time. He will have a separate trial at a later date and Tanouye was not suspended.
On the stand Thursday, Richards told Madam Justice Apple Newton-Smith Hutchings arrived at the bus and asked, “Is this the mother-F who causes the problem?” He described him as being verbally threatening and very aggressive.
“I wasn’t threatening verbally. I wasn’t muscling up,” said Richards, who told the court the dispute started when he entered the rear of the bus and the driver believed he had not paid his fare.
“I don’t think if I was a young white male, entering the back of the bus, he would have gone through the whole ordeal.”
The father-of-three said he apologized to his fellow riders because the driver put the bus out of service.
“I explained I paid my fare. It’s not my fault. He has his own agenda. Maybe it’s racism,” said Richards.
Earlier in the day, Peter Brauti, Hutchings’ lawyer, pointed out to the court that Richards could be seen smiling after the arrest and walked off the bus on his own.
“He didn’t appear to be limping or in distress,” he said.
The Crown also argued Hutchings’ arrest was unlawful, but Brauti argued the video does not tell the full story, pointing out that Richards was hoarking.
Use of force expert Chris Butler testified that being spat on is a serious concern.
“A very serious risk (because) officers end up with communicable diseases,” he explained.
Butler testified that given that risk, it would be appropriate to grab the suspect.
Toronto police spokesperson Connie Osborne responded in an email to the developments in court.
“While we can’t speak specifically to this case given it is before the court, we do recognize it causes concern in our communities,” she wrote.
“Officers are trained to use proportionate use of force needed to gain control of a situation safely and without injury during dynamic situations. The service does not teach neck restraint or ‘chokeholds’ as a standard.”
The trial was scheduled to resume in September.