Police in Quebec are defending the actions of one of their officers who was caught on camera appearing to head-butt a suspect during an arrest.
On Friday afternoon, bystanders filmed a Laval police officer engaged in a physical altercation with a man near the scene of a robbery. In the videos, which were posted on Instagram, the officer appears to head-butt the man before he punches and knees him. Eventually, the police officer handcuffs the suspect who is seen lying on the ground.
According to Laval police spokesperson Genevieve Major, the videos only show part of the story. She told CTV Montreal the suspect was one of three involved in an alleged break-and-enter and robbery at a private residence.
When the police officer in question arrived at the scene, Major said two of the three suspects fled while a third man remained. She said the police officer attempted to arrest the third suspect who managed to resist.
The suspect then allegedly tried to use the handcuffs as brass knuckles to punch the police officer, according to the spokesperson. She said the police officer injured his hand when he shielded himself from the blow, Major said.
At that point, the spokesperson said the police officer fought back to defend himself and that was the part of the altercation that was filmed by bystanders.
“With all the context, the officer reacted well – in the sense that he had to defend himself for his security,” she explained.
Major called the arrest a “high-risk” situation for the police officer who was alone at the time.
Bystanders who witnessed the arrest, however, said they thought the police officer used unnecessary force during the altercation.
Muaz Zaman said the police officer was aggressive towards the suspect who was already lying on the ground.
“As soon as he came to the guy, he started hitting him,” he recalled. “We were like ‘He’s already on the ground, he’s already complying with whatever they asked.’”
Zaman said the police officer then lifted the suspect up off the ground.
“That’s when we see the head butt,” he said. “That’s when I started filming.”
Mohamed Kheder, another witness, said he heard the suspect tell the police officer that he wasn’t going to resist and that he could put him in handcuffs.
“The police didn’t choose to do that. He chose to start punching him, kicking him,” Kheder said.
Laval police said they won’t be conducting an internal investigation into the officer’s actions. Major said the officer is on leave because of his hand injury.
The three suspects have been arrested. They are facing several charges including breaking-and-entering, resisting arrest, and theft.
They’re expected to appear in court on Monday.
None of the allegations have been tested in court.
More on this story from CTVNews.ca