They could have just asked him to leave the park.
Instead, two Halifax Regional Police officers ended up arresting Adam LeRue, ripping his common law partner from his vehicle, and sending him to jail for the night.
LeRue, who is Black, and his partner, Kerry Morris, testified at their Nova Scotia Police Review Board appeal hearing at a hotel near the Halifax airport in Enfield on Thursday. It was a continuation of a hearing that was adjourned in July pending legal arguments about the board’s authority to hear the appeal. In a decision released last week and written in September, the board decided to allow the hearing to proceed.
LeRue testified on Thursday that he and Morris stopped in the parking lot of Sir Sandford Fleming Park, better known as the Dingle, to make a phone call just before 10pm back on Feb. 12, 2018.
After driving past LeRue twice, Halifax Regional Police officer Const. Kenneth O’Brien turned his lights on and parked his vehicle behind LeRue’s. O’Brien approached the vehicle, told LeRue he was illegally in the park after dark, and asked for his identification.
“At this point, I could see it was going to escalate, so I called for a supervisor,” LeRue said.
LeRue told the board he’s had numerous run-ins with Halifax Regional Police — “some OK, some disturbing” — and so he knows what to expect when he gets pulled over or carded.
Halifax cops have called him the N-word, they’ve called him “Osama Bin Laden,” they’ve called him a “terrorist motherfucker,” LeRue said Thursday.
With these incidents in mind, he told O’Brien he’d present his ID to his supervisor.
A video shown at the hearing on Thursday backs up LeRue’s version of events, at least at the beginning of the interaction.
There’s little to see in the video, just the blue and red flashing lights of O’Brien’s cruiser on LeRue’s steering wheel. But we hear the interaction between LeRue and O’Brien.:
O’Brien: “Park’s closed. Closes at 10.”
O’Brien: “Do you have ID there, sir?”
LeRue: “I do.
LeRue: “What do I need to provide ID for?”
O’Brien: “Because you’re in the park after dark, so you have to identify yourself. The time is 10 o’clock, I think it’s–”
LeRue: “OK, I want a supervisor.”
O’Brien: “You want a supervisor?”
LeRue: “What’s your name, K. O’Brien?”
O’Brien: “Yep, just give me a second.”
At this point, it sounds like O’Brien starts to walk back to his car, but the conversation continues:
LeRue: “So you know, we’re not in the park, we’re in the parking lot. We’re not using the park.”
O’Brien: “The park starts way up there by the Fleming sign. There’s signs where you came in—”
LeRue: “Listen buddy, listen, are you bored or something?”
O’Brien: “Yeah, I am.”
LeRue: “You are. I can tell.”
O’Brien: “So you know the ticket is $220.”
LeRue: “For what?”
The municipal parks bylaw, Bylaw P-600, states, in Section 13(3): “No person shall be in a park at any time during the period 10:00 p.m. till 5:00 a.m. without permission.” O’Brien’s lawyer, James Giacomantonio, suggested on Thursday that O’Brien, who made $102,260.36 in fiscal 2019-2020, “clears the park” just after 10pm almost every night. Giacomantonio said O’Brien even stopped another motorist in the park that night, a white man, and let him off with a warning.
The video next skips ahead to a different conversation. LeRue and Morris testified that LeRue’s phone died during the first recording, and Morris turned it back on and started recording again. Morris said she doesn’t own a phone.
Morris can be heard saying, “We’ll wait. We’ll wait for your supervisor. You’re being irrational.”
It then skips ahead again, and an officer is speaking, saying, “He’s in Bedford, and he said he’s not driving here but he’ll give you a call.”
LeRue testified that O’Brien called for the supervisor, but was told he was in an office in Bedford doing paperwork and wouldn’t be coming. The supervisor, identified as Staff Sgt. Brian Palmeter, never came to the scene.
But a second officer, Const. Brent Woodworth, did arrive on the scene. He approached LeRue’s vehicle and told him O’Brien didn’t want to issue LeRue a ticket, he just wanted to run his licence to see if he had any warrants out.
Eventually, the officers told LeRue that if he didn’t give them his identification, he’d be arrested for obstruction of justice. LeRue continued to insist that he’d give his ID to a supervisor, so the officers arrested him.
“I didn’t struggle. I didn’t resist. None of that stuff,” LeRue said.
LeRue said he was “firm” with O’Brien throughout the interaction.
“It was just a firm, jaded response to him,” he said.
As he was being arrested, LeRue told the officers his licence, registration, and insurance were in the glove compartment, and he told Morris to take the vehicle and go home.
Once LeRue was in the back of O’Brien’s cruiser, the officers returned to his vehicle and told Morris they wanted to search it. She told them she didn’t consent to a search, and then Woodworth removed Morris from the vehicle and arrested her.
Morris told the review board she was “ripped” from the vehicle, with LeRue looking on from the back of O’Brien’s cruiser, and Woodworth grabbed her hard enough to leave a bruise on her arm and give her a sore shoulder.
“Those physical injuries, obviously they heal, but not the emotional trauma,” Morris said.
Woodworth’s notes from the night of the incident make no mention of Morris physically resisting or struggling as he “gently” pulled her out of the vehicle. A year later, when he was being internally investigated, Woodworth said she struggled.
After the officers searched LeRue’s vehicle and found nothing, they “de-arrested” Morris and let her go.
They told LeRue he could sign a promise to appear in court, but he refused to sign anything.
“I was angry and it was really based on the fact that my wife was assaulted,” he said.
They then took him to cells at Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street. On the way, LeRue admitted he was insulting and swearing at O’Brien.
During cross-examintation, Giacomantonio suggested LeRue had crossed a line, and that he said, after they arrested Morris, “I will get you and you will pay for this.” LeRue denied making that statement. Giacomantonio asked whether he tried to humiliate O’Brien on his way to the station by suggesting he couldn’t pleasure his wife. He denied that, too. He said he was mad, and he cursed.
Once they were in cells on Gottingen, LeRue said he told the booking officer multiple times he needed a puffer for his asthma. He never got the puffer, which had been in his vehicle earlier and which Morris tried to drop off for him at the station.
“Being in jail, it’s awful,” LeRue said.
In the morning LeRue was taken to Halifax provincial court and placed in the cells there, then brought upstairs in handcuffs to be arraigned.
“I was a total criminal to them,” he said.
LeRue ended up pleading guilty and going through a restorative justice process for the obstruction charge. He also paid a ticket for failure to show ID under the Motor Vehicle Act. The ticket for being in the park after 10pm was thrown out.
LeRue and his lawyers, Jason Cooke and Ashley Hamp-Gonsalves, repeatedly said that O’Brien should’ve just asked LeRue to leave the park.
“It’s frankly mystifying to us how this could’ve escalated to the point where he was arrested, charged, and had to go through a criminal justice process, albeit a restorative justice one in the end,” Cooke told reporters during a break in the hearing.
“The police are supposed to be in the de-escalation, conflict-management business, and I don’t see any evidence of that in what happened to Adam and Kerry.”
Pointing to street checks in Halifax and the systemic racism inherent in Nova Scotia’s justice system, Cooke said he believes race was a factor in what happened to LeRue.
“This is a reality for African Nova Scotians and particularly African Nova Scotian men,” Cooke said. “These are the interactions they have with the police, and every time they’re stopped or pulled over, things can go terribly awry.”
Morris said she feels like LeRue is a target for the police.
“I feel like he’s being hunted by the Halifax Regional Police, throughout his lifetime,” she said.
Hamp-Gonsalves didn’t specify a remedy they’re seeking through the review process, but said LeRue and Morris are looking for better training for officer, and more importantly, a culture change within Halifax Regional Police.
The hearing is expected to resume on Friday, with O’Brien and Woodworth, along with their supervisor, testifying.
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