This story is over 5 years old.


This Nigerian Refugee Was Mistaken for a Police Suspect and Beaten to the Ground

Solomon Akintoye’s civil trial against the Vancouver Police Department, which alleges wrongful arrest and police brutality, wrapped in Vancouver this week.

A civil trial alleging that Vancouver police wrongfully and violently arrested a Nigerian refugee with mental illness wrapped on Friday, and testimony by several cops paint a bizarre and brutal picture.

The BC Supreme Court heard that Solomon Akintoye was on his way to a job interview in 2011 when an officer mistook him for a fraud suspect who was also black. The cops asked him for ID, so he handed over his health card.


The interaction probably could have ended there—you know, since it was the wrong guy—but the two cops detained him. Then an argument started about Akintoye's left hand, which was in his pocket. Akintoye claims he was holding his pants up, and asked to keep it there.

Officer Jeremiah Birnbaum testified that he said, "If you want to act like an asshole, you'll get treated as one," before he slammed Akintoye against the hood of his cruiser. The other officer testified that Akintoye resisted an attempt to put on handcuffs. The cops kneed him and dragged him to the ground, and then four more officers were called in as backup.

Akintoye described being punched and kicked, his head smashed into the ground. One of the cops testified that he hit Akintoye in the ribs as hard as he could. Officer Birnbaum, however, claimed he did not punch or kick the man when he was down.

The Vancouver police say they violently arrested Akintoye in the interest of "officer safety." They said it was Akintoye who was argumentative, and that they did not use excessive force.

Akintoye's lawyers say the arrest and beating "reveals a troublesome pattern beneath the surface of so many police encounters with black people in Canada," drawing comparison to carding cases in Ontario. Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society say Akintoye's mental illness worsened after the confrontation. They said a pat-down could have prevented the incident.

This is not the first time Akintoye has gone after the Vancouver cops. In 2013, he filed a human rights complaint alleging racial profiling, which was dismissed. The verdict on the civil case will be delivered later this year.

Follow Sarah Berman on Twitter.