Judge dismisses man’s claims he was brutally assaulted by Vancouver police
Solomon Akintoye, whose case went before B.C. Supreme Court after he alleged Vancouver police repeatedly punched and kicked him and then wrongfully arrested him in a case of mistaken identity. (Keith Fraser/Postmedia)
A judge has dismissed the claims of a man that he was brutally assaulted by police in downtown Vancouver in a case of mistaken identity.
Solomon Akintoye testified that after he was stopped by cops while he was walking along Richards Street on the way to a job interview, he was repeatedly kicked and punched by police who mistakenly believed he was a fraud suspect.
Const. Jennifer White and Const. Jeremiah Birnbaum, the officers who initially detained Akintoye, denied those allegations and claimed that Akintoye was aggressive and kicking at them. They testified that they only used force that was reasonable during the “investigative detention.”
In her ruling on the case, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Margot Fleming said that although Akintoye was detained because of a mistake about his identity, the detention was lawful and necessary and the force used reasonable during the April 2011 incident.
The judge said she had significant concerns about the credibility of Akintoye, who had mental-health issues and has now been diagnosed as being schizophrenic.
“His evidence regarding the extreme violence inflicted by the police also strikes me as implausible, bearing in mind the police incident occurred in mid-afternoon in downtown Vancouver, where police officers would reasonably expect their actions to be observed by any number of people,” said the judge.
“Further, Mr. Akintoye’s allegations that he was punched in the face and body, kicked with boots repeatedly and his face smashed into the pavement are inconsistent with the documentary evidence.”
The judge said that, in contrast, the evidence of the police officers was consistent and minor discrepancies in their descriptions of the incident were explained by differences in their exposure to the circumstances.
“Each of them testified in a straightforward, sincere manner. They were responsive and reasonable throughout,” said the judge. “Accordingly, where the evidence of the plaintiff and the police officers conflict, I largely prefer the evidence of the police officers.”
The judge said that at the time of the incident Akintoye, 33, was likely experiencing some psychotic symptoms and the symptoms included hallucinations and delusions.
“I draw this inference bearing in mind the plaintiff’s memory difficulties may well have affected all aspects of his evidence.”
When Birnbaum and White tried to put handcuffs on Akintoye, White ended up on the ground with Akintoye on top of her and fighting uncontrollably. Other officers arrived on the scene and took Akintoye into custody, and he was taken to the Vancouver jail and held for 23 hours before being released.
Doug King, a lawyer who represented Akintoye, said that he and his client were “obviously disappointed by the ruling.”
“We had hoped that the court would see fit to put greater restrictions on when the police can engage with people on the street like this,” said King, who works with the Pivot Legal Society.
“We will take a look at whether or not there are legal issues that should be appealed. I think ultimately some of the factors in Solomon’s case will probably sooner rather than later end up in front of the higher courts.”
The Vancouver police had no comment on the ruling.