A former champion UBC Thunderbirds football player is demanding answers from the Vancouver Police Department after he was arrested, taken to the ground and tasered over what started as a jaywalking violation.
A video taken early Sunday morning on the Granville Strip shows Jamiel Moore-Williams accusing officers of targeting him because he’s a “black man crossing the street” just before several other officers rush over and pile on top of him.
“What are you doing? I’m getting my ID. Why are you doing that to my arm?” asks the 250 pound, 6-4 former defensive end while at least five officers pull him around a lamp post and then onto the street.
The incident has shaken the 22-year-old man, who is now a personal trainer. He’s vowed to fight two counts of obstruction of justice and the jaywalking ticket.
The VPD denied to CTV News in a statement that Moore-Williams was stopped because of his race, “which obviously wasn’t the case,” but because he was jaywalking.
Moore-Williams said he and two friends were heading home after a Saturday night on the Granville Strip and crossed Helmcken Street to avoid a man throwing rocks at passersby.
He walked in front of a marked police car, which honked at him, and Moore-Williams raised his arms in response. The officers got out of the car, and demanded he identify himself.
That’s about where the video begins, with Moore Williams claiming he’s being approached because he’s “black crossing the street.” He has his wallet in his hands in the video, but the officers don’t seem to ask for it.
“No one swore at you,” one of them says. “Put your hands behind your back please, you’re under arrest for obstruction.”
“I’m giving you my ID,” says Moore-Williams. “This is illegal. This is illegal.”
Then, the two officers are joined by four others. One grabs each hand, and a third goes to pull a leg out from under him.
“What am I doing? I’m getting my ID. Why are you doing that to my arm?” says Moore-Williams as he is pushed over.
He seems to move with the officers but it takes several seconds for them to pull him to the ground. Officers can be seen kicking him and tasering him in the video.
In an interview with CTV News, Moore-Williams said he was confused at the time and wasn’t sure what was happening.
“I think I was in the most humanly possible relaxed state you can be after being tasered,” he said.
After spending time in hospital, and then most of Sunday in custody, he is now angry.
“I feel sick to my stomach. I cried. Not from the pain,” he said, breaking into tears. “I tore my ACL (a knee ligament). Not a tear came from my eye. But when I sat and thought about how they did that to me, I cried. That’s crazy.”
Vancouver police wrote a statement in answer to CTV News’ questions about the incident. They say Moore-Williams walked in front of a marked police car going west on Helmcken Street while they had the light on around 2:30 am.
“Our officers honked their horn to get the man’s attention. The man turned, looked directly at the marked police car, raised both hands and middle-fingered the police officers,” wrote Const. Jason Doucette.
Doucette said they asked Moore-Williams for his ID.
“The officers clearly advised the man he was required by law to identify himself because he was being investigated for jay-walking under the Motor Vehicle Act. The man still refused and became increasingly argumentative.”
Officers called for backup, said Moore-Williams had his wallet in his hands but wouldn’t produce ID.
“He then started claiming he was only being stopped by the police because he was black, which obviously wasn’t the case,” Doucette said.
Doucette also said one officer reported that Moore-Williams had him in a headlock when he was being brought to the ground. But the video doesn’t show any headlock.
Resisting officers doesn’t sound like something Moore-Williams would do, said his friend Malcolm Lee who recorded the video.
“He’s a caring guy. You look at him, you think, ‘He’s huge, he’s a monster,’ but he’s not, he’s totally different than that,” Lee said.
Lee and Moore-Williams played together on the Vanier Cup-winning team in 2015, he said.
He said he started recording when things started getting out of hand, hearing about other black men who had been in trouble after interactions with police.
“You hear about all this stuff,” Lee said. “We’re in Vancouver. You think it doesn’t happen, but it does.”