A Black teenager’s family says police singled him out after he tried to break up a fight outside a junior high school in Dartmouth* 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 to the Halifax Examiner in separate interviews. The Examiner is 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 altercation

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.

‘Definitely racially motivated’

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 told the Examiner 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.

Teen says cop tried to antagonize him

The Examiner has reviewed 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:

A call comes in, there’s a large fight at the school, knives are involved. We respond to that. The fight moves from the school to here, I am the first one [who] arrives on the scene. Your son, when I arrived on the scene ⁠— I don’t know what happened up until that point ⁠— has a knife in his hand and he’s threatening the people in the car. 

Again, you have to consider, I have no idea what’s going on up until that point. He’s compliant, no big deal. It’s a big deal, but he’s safe. He gets arrested because he did have the knife and was threatening to stab the people in the car when I arrived on the scene. So, we do an investigation. There was a large fight, people threatened to stab him [too]. I also have him in custody, he’s in jail right now as well … the white boy that had the knife in his hand is also in jail. That’s where we are right now. We have several knives.

The teen told the Examiner 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 to the Examiner, Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. John MacLeod wrote:

I can confirm that on December 5 at approximately 4 p.m. our officers responded to a report of disturbance in the 0-100 block of Dorothea Drive in Dartmouth. Two large groups of youths were reported to be fighting with each other. A 16 year old youth was arrested and is facing charges of assault with a weapon, possession of a prohibited weapon and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public. If anyone has information in relation to the incident we would ask that they call police at 490-5016 to speak with an investigator. I cannot provide further specifics of an ongoing investigation in particular one that is before the courts and involves a youth.

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.

* The Examiner incorrectly identified Cole Harbour, not Dartmouth, as where the altercation took place. We’ve updated the story and headline. We apologize for the error.

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Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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  1. The headline for the story references Cole Harbour which is incorrect as the incident took place in Dartmouth.

  2. Clearly, the black teenager was holding the knife, so that things would calm down. But for certain, it was not his knife, probably someone’s else’s name must have been on it.
    This is a crazy story and he was not racially profiled. What should the police think, they arrive at a conflict and one person is holding a knife. He is the person who can cause the most damage.