By Keith Fraser, Postmedia
A Surrey man testified Monday that Vancouver police repeatedly punched and kicked him, then wrongfully arrested him in a case of mistaken identity.
Solomon Akintoye, 33, said he was walking down Richards Street in downtown Vancouver on his way to a job on April 18, 2011 when a police vehicle pulled up beside him, with one of the two officers telling him they were looking for someone who looked like him.
He told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Margot Fleming that Const. Jennifer White and another officer got out of the vehicle and White asked him for his identification and he complied, providing the officer with an Ontario health card since he had only recently moved to B.C.
Akintoye said that White went back to the police cruiser to check his ID and then came back and asked him for the spelling of his last name.
The other officer, Const. Jeremiah Birnbaum, told him to move closer and then told him to take his hand out of his pocket, Akintoye told the judge.
Birnbaum told him, ‘If you don’t want to be an a…..e, take your hand out of your pocket,’ ” said Akintoye.
The plaintiff said he was using his hand to keep his pants up because he had forgotten to wear a belt and didn’t want to remove his hand from the pocket.
Then Birnbaum grabbed his hand and pinned him against the police vehicle and used his other hand to use his cellphone to call for backup, said Akintoye.
When other officers arrived at the scene, Akintoye, who had been forced to the ground, said he was punched repeatedly and kicked by the police.
“I was punched from up and down. I was kicked with boots on my leg, my stomach. My head was smashed on the ground.”
Akintoye, who moved to Ontario from Nigeria in 2003 and is now a Canadian citizen, said that throughout the beating he remembered saying the word “pain” to the officers.
“I was saying it very loud. That pain was heavy. I don’t know what kind of sin I committed to face that kind of beating.”
Akintoye, who is being represented by lawyers with the Pivot Legal Society, said he was put in a police wagon, taken to jail and held overnight. He was released after it was determined that police had gotten the wrong man. He claims his mental health issues were worsened by the incident and he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
Neil Chantler, a lawyer for Akintoye, told the judge that the case would require a close examination of the law surrounding police powers on an investigative detention and when it is reasonable for police to perceive that officer safety is at risk.
“In particular, you will be called upon to determine whether it was reasonable for police officers to use any force at all against the plaintiff and, if it was, whether the force used was reasonable in the circumstances.”
Bronson Toy, a lawyer for the defendant City of Vancouver, questioned Akintoye about a prior decision by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal that dismissed his claims that he’d been attacked by police in a case of racial profiling.
Toy suggested that Akintoye had resisted arrest and had kicked out at the officers, a suggestion denied by the plaintiff. The trial is expected to continue Tuesday.