Woman attacked in Saskatoon parking lot too traumatized to speak publicly: lawyer

·2 min read

SASKATOON — A lawyer for a woman who was seen on video being kneeled on by a security guard outside a grocery store says the young mother is too traumatized to talk publicly about what happened.

Annette Custer was to speak Tuesday during a news conference organized by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, but decided not to.

She instead sat next to lawyer Michael Seed as he explained that Custer is the woman who appears in a nine-minute video posted on social media last week. He said she is from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and currently lives in Saskatoon.

The video shows a man, who identifies himself as a security guard, kneeling on a woman as he tries to handcuff her in the parking lot of a FreshCo store in the city.

Police have said they received a call about theft at the store and officers arrived to find 30-year-old Custer being detained by a loss prevention officer. She refused medical treatment, police said, and the security guard had minor injuries.

Custer has been charged with theft under $5,000 and assault.

Seed called on police to lay criminal charges against the security guard.

"We simply will not address the epidemic of violence and the inhumane treatment experienced by Indigenous people in this country, in this province, in this city, until we make people accountable," he said.

There was no word from police as to whether the guard faces charges.

"At this time, there is no further update beyond what was originally provided following the occurrence," Joshua Grella, co-ordinator for the Saskatoon Police Service, said in an email.

"I can add that this remains an active investigation and that if we need to seek an opinion from the Crown we will do so."

Seed urged people to watch the video so they can understand how traumatic it was for Custer as she lay on the pavement under the weight of the man and unable to speak.

"He puts the full weight of his body on top of her while bystanders beg him to let her go," Seed described.

"She's visibly afraid. She's audibly hyperventilating and still struggling just to move. If you watch the video, maybe you'll get a slight sense of the sort of claustrophobia that would create."

The owner of the FreshCo store, who is Metis and the father of two daughters, posted on Facebook after the altercation that he was "beyond shocked and horrified" by what happened. He said the store has ended its contract with the security company.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021.

— By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press