Video Shows Police Officer in Canada Punching Elderly Black Man as Wife Screams Nearby

Video footage shared to Twitter appears to show police in the greater Toronto area detaining a black couple outside a hospital as one officer repeatedly punches the husband, who can be heard screaming "murder."

The video clip, filmed by an eyewitness to the October 2018 incident, was posted to Twitter on Monday morning by journalist Muhammad Lila. Security footage also shared by Lila shows that the couple, Livingston Jeffers and Pamelia Jeffers who were both in their late 60s when the incident took place, were detained by police after they left the hospital.

"This security video shows the full sequence of events. The couple had arrived at a hospital in Ajax because the grandmother wasn't feeling well," Lila reported, sharing a clip of footage from hospital security cameras. "Due to a long wait, they say they asked if they could leave, and were told yes. There was an argument as they were leaving."

The incident took place in the town of Ajax, which is located within the greater Toronto metropolitan area. The officers involved in the incident were from the Durham Regional Police Service.

A separate video taken by an eyewitness shows the woman screaming as officers grab her arms. Her husband is lying in the parking lot as another officer appears to punch him multiple times. The person filming objects to how the couple is being treated, saying the officer is assaulting the man. He is then told he is breaking "patient confidentiality" by filming.

"Murder, murder, murder," the man can be heard screaming repeatedly as the officer continues holding him down.

"The officers—both white—repeatedly elbowed and punched the man in the head. Medical reports show he suffered cuts and bruises on his eyes and back of his head," Lila reported. He said that no charges have been filed against the officers involved in the incident, although a charge was initially filed against the man. Officers alleged Livingston Jeffers reached for one of their guns, but the charges were dropped in court after the videos and testimony from witnesses were reviewed.

"Police apparently may still have the officers' bodycam videos. They should release the videos, in the public interest," Lila wrote.

A spokesperson for the Durham Regional Police told Newsweek that the incident had been reviewed by an independent agency, and that the claims against the officers involved were found to be unsubstantiated.

In a statement later emailed to Newsweek, a spokesperson said that the "officers were on site at the time on an unrelated matter when they were asked by hospital staff to intervene in a disturbance regarding the elderly couple. During the arrest, the elderly couple and one police officer suffered minor injuries."

They explained that the couple have asked for a review of the independent investigation. "The family has also filed a civil proceeding related to this incident, which is presently before the Court. As a result of the requested review of the OIPRD complaint as well as the ongoing civil litigation, we are not in a position to speak further on this matter," the spokesperson said.

"At no time prior to or during the assault did any of the police officers have reasonable grounds to believe that the victims committed any crime or constituted any danger to themselves or any other person," the couple's attorneys Faisal Kutty and Kalim Khan wrote in a June 10 letter to the Ontario police watchdog, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, Canada's Global News reported. Newsweek reached out to Kutty for further comment.

The hospital has said that the couple were being prevented from leaving as the wife had been put on a psychiatric hold, Global News reported. However, the couple and their attorneys deny this, saying there was no hold in effect when they departed the medical facility.

According to Legal Line, a Canadian nonprofit that provides free legal answers, a person can be involuntarily admitted to a hospital for up to 72 hours under provisions laid out by the Mental Health Act in Ontario, the province where the incident took place. A doctor most often would order the psychiatric hold under two circumstances, which include believing the person is a danger to themself or others, and/or their conditions is deteriorating rapidly and requires hospitalization.

Toronto BLM Protest
Protesters march during an anti-racism march on June 6 in Toronto. The hospital has said that the couple were being prevented from leaving as the wife had been put on a psychiatric hold, but the couple and their attorneys deny this. Cole Burston/Getty

The video footage of the incident was published as Black Lives Matter demonstrations have spread to countries across the world, as activists raise concerns about what many believe to be systemic racism in policing and the justice system.

While the protests were spurred by the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, in police custody on May 25, as well as other high-profile incidents in the U.S., Canada is grappling with its own cases of alleged police brutality against minorities. Cities and towns across Canada have seen large demonstrations, similar to those in the U.S., as protesters express their frustration with racism in their society.

This article has been updated with further comment from the Durham Regional Police Service.