Const. Mark Pierce, the Halifax Regional Police officer charged with assaulting a 15-year-old Black boy outside of a mall in Bedford in February 2020, came face to face last week with the youth and his parents for the first time since the night of the incident.
Demario Chambers, now 19 years old, said he received a concussion, cuts, bruises, and badly hurt finger at the hands of Pierce and his partner Const. Craig Trudel when they arrested him.
They released Chambers without charges to his parents later that night.
Chambers’ mother, Troylena, and his father, Dasmen Dixon, shared a 23-second video of the arrest that Chambers recorded. The video was widely shared on social media in the days that followed as the story made headlines.
Following an investigation by the province’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), Pierce was charged eight months later in October 2020.
Trudel, Pierce’s partner, was never charged.
Pierce initially pleaded not guilty, which typically means the case will go to trial.
However, the Crown instead referred the case to restorative justice. Troylena Dixon, Chambers’ mother, said the restorative justice process would be better for her son than a trial. On Tuesday, Pierce and Chambers met to complete that process.
“He pleaded not guilty in the courts, but he had to admit to it and take accountability for his actions … in order for it to go through to restorative justice,” Dixon, told the Halifax Examiner following Tuesday’s restorative justice meeting.
Chambers’ father, Dasmen Dixon, said Pierce has been on paid suspension since he was charged. He said Pierce and Trudel’s actions will be the subject of an internal Halifax Regional Police investigation following the conclusion of the criminal case. Dixon said he wants to see Pierce lose his job.
Several support people for both Chambers and Pierce attended the closed meeting, along with Chambers’ parents, and the restorative justice moderator. Troylena Dixon said the meeting lasted five hours.
Singled out for ‘loitering’ at the mall
Chambers wrote an article in the Examiner in July 2020 (before Pierce was charged) where he told his side of the story.
He said the police were called that night after a security guard at the nearby Sunnyside Mall singled him out and asked him to leave the mall.
“Of course I asked why, and she said we were loitering which was odd because everyone does that (it’s a mall). We all know why I was asked to leave, but I did leave only to get the cops called on me,” he wrote.
After talking with Pierce and Trudel a short time later across the street outside the Bedford Place Mall, Chambers said the police started to walk away just before Trudel pulled out his handcuffs and told Chambers, “You will be in these one day.”
“To me that seemed racist,” Chambers wrote. “So I started recording and that’s the video everyone has [seen].”
At the start of the video Pierce can be seen on the left of the screen, and Trudel on the right.
“I can go outside if I want to,” Chambers states.
“You’ll get arrested if you keep this up,” Pierce responds.
“Really? For what? For speaking my mouth?”
“No, that’s it,” says Pierce. Pierce and Trudel then approach Chambers just before the camera starts to bounce around.
“Don’t you touch me,” Chambers says.
“You’re under arrest,” says Pierce.
A scuffle can then be heard for the brief remainder of the clip.
‘You took away my right to feel safe’
With Chambers’ permission, his mother, Troylena Dixon shared with the Examiner a written statement she said Chambers read directly to Pierce on Tuesday. The statement reads in part:
That day … has changed my life in a negative way. That day you both took a lot from me. You took away my right to feel safe, you took away that I wanted to be a cop myself.
You took away how I wasn’t meant to ever be in handcuffs nor in the back of a police car, and even though that part may seem minimal to you it’s a big thing to me, especially being a Black young man.
Since that day my mental health has not been great. I don’t really leave my house, to be honest. I hardly leave my room. I tried to kill myself a few times because I couldn’t handle the pain. I still have nightmares and flashbacks. I don’t eat much, or sleep. I don’t enjoy life like I should. I feel like I got robbed. I’ve gotten severely bullied since that incident. I failed a class. I deal with back pain every day. I battle every day to just get up. This is just a mini summary of what I had to go through but it’s been hard for me.
My question is why? Why did you feel the need to look for me that day? Why did the other officer feel the need to put his handcuffs in the air and say I am “going to be in these one day”? Why did you step in the middle of the cuffs when I wasn’t going nowhere? What made me a threat? These are questions I asked myself over and over again. Why me?Demario Chambers
The Examiner reached out to the Halifax Regional Police with questions about the investigation(s) into Pierce and Trudel. This is the response we received from HRP spokesperson Const. John MacLeod:
As you are aware, the Criminal investigation was conducted by SIRT, therefore any questions related to that investigation should be directed to them. We can confirm that with the conclusion of the criminal matter, the original Public Police Act Complaint will proceed. We will not be making any further comment at this time.
And the chief still insists that the HRP does not have a racism problem.
It is troubling that Pierce and Trudeau still carry badges.