This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
A young Black Montrealer has filed a complaint against Montreal police after he alleges several officers stormed into his apartment during a Super Bowl party, slammed him to the ground, and held him and his friends at gunpoint in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
Taylor Zamor, 30, said the resulting injuries have left him in pain, distressed, and unable to work. He is considering legal action. In his formal complaint to the SVPM, filed from his hospital bed, he describes the emotional toll from the officers’ conduct as “severe.”
According to Zamor, at about 8:30 p.m. February 2, just after the halftime show had ended, there was a loud knock on the door of his Côte-des-Neiges-neighborhood apartment. His roommate, who was smoking downstairs, had just called him to warn that police were entering the building in search of two Black men accused of a stabbing nearby. After Zamor answered the door following a second, more aggressive bang, Zamor alleges a team of five police officers from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SVPM) swarmed the apartment with their firearms raised.
“I asked them to identify themselves and explain what was going on, but that’s when I was slammed to the ground,” said Zamor, who immigrated from Haiti when he was young.
Zamor had a dozen friends over who witnessed the events. VICE spoke to three of them, and they corroborated his account. Montreal police refused to comment on the incident, saying they could not comment on specific cases and it was confidential.
Zamor alleges he lay pinned to the floor of his apartment with an officer’s knee wedged in his lower back, while remaining SVPM officers cased the unit with their weapons, including handguns, raised and demanded that the other 14 houseguests, almost all of whom were also Black, shut up and keep their hands raised. A witness from the group told VICE most people were fearful of the repercussions if they retrieved their phones from their pockets to record the officers, so they kept quiet and complied.
Antz Apollon, a friend of Zamor and houseguest that evening, was also chosen from the group for further questioning. “I was taken outside and surrounded by three police officers while two guns and a taser were being pointed at me. I wasn’t asked any questions or even for a piece of identification,” he said. Apollon was released after police confirmed he did not match the description of either suspect.
According to Zamor and Apollon, officers gave them conflicting stories on why their unit had been targeted by law enforcement. One officer allegedly told the men they had been informed by someone on the street that a Black family lived in Zamor’s apartment. Another officer told them that once they entered the building, they followed a trail of wet footprints to their door. A third SVPM officer said that perhaps they got the building mixed up with another building nearby. A fourth officer allegedly said that they heard loud talking coming from their unit and thought they might be harboring the two suspects. Montreal police would not answer questions about any incidents in the area.
Zamor told VICE he only received a curt apology from the officer in charge when police were leaving the apartment. “He looked me in the eye and said, ‘I’m sorry the way we did things was not to your liking,’ and then he left.”
Montreal has been plagued in recent years by police misconduct cases, and a damning SVPM report in 2019 said that Black and Indigenous Montrealers were four times more likely to be subjected to street checks than white Montrealers.
A recent census indicated that 33 percent of Montrealers identify as a visible minority, yet only around 8 percent of SVPM officers are people of color. Efforts to increase that number have been largely unsuccessful.
Zamor is not yet sure whether he will bring legal proceedings against the Montreal police. It can be notoriously difficult and often re-traumatizing to prove a victim’s basic rights were violated by police, even with multiple witnesses present. Currently, the SVPM force does not wear body cams, citing concerns about cost.
Under specific circumstances, police in Canada are permitted to enter a residence without receiving a warrant from a judge. Officers must be in “hot pursuit” of a suspect and have reasonable grounds to believe that a suspect is present in a residence. Alternatively, they can enter a dwelling if there is a reasonable and imminent threat of bodily harm to an individual or the public. Zamor and his friends do not believe those circumstances were met.
Zamor spent the day after the incident at the hospital, where an ER doctor confirmed injury to his lower back, groin, and left leg. VICE also saw referral documents for a physiotherapist as well as a psychologist who deals specifically with post-traumatic stress resulting from police violence.
“The main role of the police is to serve and protect,” Zamor said. “Instead of that, I had multiple guns pulled on me and was thrown to the floor inside my own home. Tell me how would you feel toward the police if you were in my shoes.”
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