A close up of the HRP crest on the sign for the Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021.
Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

A Montreal man is suing Halifax Regional Police, alleging officers arrested him without cause, broke his shoulder, and called him a “piece of shit.”

A lawyer for Murray James filed a notice of action in Nova Scotia Supreme Court earlier this month, naming the police and Matthew Ryan, believed to live in Cape Breton, as defendants.

None of the allegations in the statement of claim has been tested in court, and the defendants have yet to file statements of defence.

James claims he was sitting on his motorcycle, parked near the corner of Sackville and Brunswick streets in downtown Halifax “during the early morning hours” of August 23, 2021. At least seven police vehicles and at least eight officers “abruptly approached and surrounded” him, “several” with their guns drawn and pointed at him.

Officers told James to put his hands up and walk backwards towards them. He says he did so, and then officers grabbed him by his head and shoulders “without reason cause or justification.”

During that process, “he heard a pop-sound emanating from his shoulder and suffered immediate contemporaneous excruciating pain.”

“Same was later determined and diagnosed to be a broken shoulder which required emergency surgery,” James’ lawyer, Ian Joyce, wrote in the Aug. 10 filing.

The officers handcuffed James, tightening them “to the point that he experienced physical harm and injury,” Joyce wrote.

James complained about his treatment after he was “aggressively and forcefully pushed and thrown by members of Halifax Regional Police into the back of a police vehicle.”

The officers told him, “he was ‘a piece of shit’ and that they ‘can do anything [they] want to him,’” Joyce wrote.

James claims police were rough with his motorcycle, too, “and states that they caused property damage to same.”

Police eventually told James he was being arrested for armed robbery and possession of a firearm, which he denied. While driving away from the scene of the arrest, James claims police “received a radio dispatch call during which call the officer was instructed to stop and pull over.” After some time, they let him go.

Police told him Ryan, the other defendant named, “had made a complaint alleging the Plaintiff was  involved in an armed robbery and that he had been or was in possession of a firearm and that subsequent to making the complaint Ryan advised police that the complaint was false and untrue.”

“The Plaintiff states that he has not since been charged with any offence and, to the best of his knowledge, has not been alleged to have committed any offence,” Joyce wrote.

“The Plaintiff states that Ryan filed a false and untrue allegation and complaint of criminal misconduct against him, knowing that said allegation and complaint at the time same was made was false and untrue.”

Ryan “committed the torts of intentional infliction of mental suffering, defamation and slander, and malicious prosecution,” James alleges, and he “engaged in flagrant and outrageous conduct, that said conduct was calculated by Ryan to produce harm” against James.

It’s unclear from the filing what, if any, relationship exists between James and Ryan.

As for the police, James claims he was falsely detained, arrested, imprisoned, assaulted, and battered by the officers involved.

“The Plaintiff states that in all of its dealings with him Halifax Regional Police used unnecessary force and treated him cruelly,” Joyce wrote.

“The Plaintiff states that the Halifax Regional Police chose or failed to conduct any investigation prior to its approach, apprehension, detainment, arrest and imprisonment of the Plaintiff.”

If they did investigate, James claims police were “negligent in carrying out said investigation and committed the tort of negligent investigation.”

Along with the broken shoulder, which required “emergency surgery and several months of rehabilitation,” Joyce wrote that James was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident.

He’s seeking undetermined general, special, punitive, and aggravated damages along with pre-judgement interest and costs.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. The speed tables have had a marginal effect on traffic speeds on our busy street and the people with big (usually loud) trucks typically ignore them altogether.