A Black teenager's family says police singled him out after he tried to break up a fight outside a junior high school in Cole Harbour this week.
The teen, who can’t be named because he’s 16, said he was the only Black male among the group and was arrested at gunpoint when the police showed up. The teen said he had a knife in his hand. He said it wasn’t his, and that he didn’t pull it out during the altercation.
Though he was present among a group of his friends and another group of teens involved in the altercation, he said he was not actually involved in the dispute and was trying to de-escalate the situation.
The teen, his mother, and his girlfriend's mother all spoke in separate interviews. We are not naming them to protect the identity of the teen.
Both mothers said they feel the teen was profiled and treated with a double standard because he is Black.
The teen said he accompanied his girlfriend, who is white, and a group of their predominantly white friends to confront an opposing group of all-white teenagers who dared them to meet up outside of Eric Graves Junior High on Dorothea Drive.
He said that one of the kids from the other group, who he doesn’t know, threatened his girlfriend and mentioned him as well.
The teen said he didn’t participate in or instigate any altercations that ensued when they met up with the other group. He said the mother of one of the kids in the other group was present the whole time and threatened members of his group before the police showed up.
He said after an initial confrontation, his group followed the other group down the street as they started to walk away, ending up at nearby Lucien Drive.
That’s when he said a physical altercation took place between members of both groups.
He said one of the boys in the other group dropped a knife during a physical confrontation with his girlfriend. He said his girlfriend picked up the knife.
The teen said he took the knife from her to try to keep everyone safe and de-escalate the situation. He said the knife was still in his hand when the first police cruiser show up.
He dropped the knife before the police officer got out of the car, he said, and the police ordered him to the ground with a gun pointed at his head. More police officers showed up.
The teen said most of the kids he was with took off running when they saw the police.
He said his girlfriend and at least one other friend who stuck around pleaded with the police and tried to explain to them that he wasn’t the one that pulled out the knife and was the one person amongst everyone trying to de-escalate the situation.
His girlfriend was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice.
After getting a call from one of their friends, his girlfriend’s mother showed up while he was now in the back of a police car.
“The way [he] was treated was definitely racially motivated, I would say,” said the girlfriend’s mother. “Because here you got these four, sort of … middle-class white boys all standing on the side of the road, in ski masks no less, dancing around, having a smoke, doing whatever they wanted.”
“So, he’s being charged with assault with a weapon when he assaulted no one and didn’t bring the weapon.”
His girlfriend’s mother contacted his mother, who then showed up with one or more of her family members.
His mother said the police initially didn’t allow her to talk to her son but eventually gave in upon her insistence.
“He opened up the door, I hugged my son, and he’s like, ‘Mom I was scared for my life … they pulled the gun out on me.’ That’s traumatizing for him,” she said.
“I feel that [he] was racially profiled.”
The teen said that all or most of the police officers were white.
There are video and audio recordings taken at the scene. In one recording, an officer can be heard talking to the teen’s mother about what he said led to his arrest:
The teen said he didn’t threaten to stab anyone.
His family asked the police why they hadn’t gathered statements from both sides. The police told them that his friends ran away and took off on him but that they were still gathering information.
After they were arrested, the teen’s girlfriend was taken to the police station in Dartmouth, and he was taken to the police station in Halifax.
His girlfriend’s mother said her father was allowed to stay with her the whole time.
The teen said on the drive to Halifax the police officer kept speeding up and stopping suddenly causing the teen to lunge forward in the backseat of the police car.
He said he also felt one of the police officers tried to intentionally antagonize him by pretending to continuously mishear the pronunciation of his address when he was giving it to them.
His mother said when she showed up at the station with two of her family members there was initially a lot of confusion between them and various officers and HRP staff. She said one of the dispatchers hung up on her at one point. She was eventually allowed to talk to her son before he was then released into her custody.
In an email, Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. John MacLeod wrote:
MacLeod said anyone concerned about an interaction with police can file a complaint with their professional standards division.
The teen’s mother said he is scheduled to appear in youth court on Dec. 22.
Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Halifax Examiner