Warning: graphic language and content
A video showing a Hamilton police officer kicking an Indigenous man in the head has been made public, sparking outrage and calls for change in the way police interact with Indigenous people in the city.
The officer in the video, Const. Brian Wren, has been suspended from the force and is facing assault charges related to the incident.
The victim, Patrick Tomchuk, 32, has suffered permanent injuries from the incident.
Police were in the midst of arresting Tomchuk for theft-related crimes on the Hamilton Mountain in May when a private citizen began recording a video of his arrest.
The video shows Tomchuk being wrestled to the ground by a crowd of officers at a gas station.
Once Tomchuk was on the ground, an officer can be heard yelling, “hands behind your back now f***er.”
At that point, an officer wearing all black and a black hat came from behind and can be seen kicking Tomchuk in the head, who was on the ground beside a gas pump, and already being subdued by at least three other officers.
A few seconds later, that same officer, in black, came around from another angle and again began kicking Tomchuk in the head and face.
Tomchuk was completely immobile by that point – about 45 seconds into the video.
A justice of the peace said it appeared Tomchuk was beaten until he was unconscious at his bail hearing last Friday.
When Hamilton Police were shown the video, Wren was suspended with pay immediately and charged with assault.
Hamilton Police Chief Frank Bergen called the video “disturbing” and “troubling.”
Tomchuk’s family had agreed to act as his surety and to connect him with programs for counselling. Tomchuk was granted bail; however, upon his release, he was picked up by police to attend to charges from a separate incident in the Niagara region.
Wren’s LinkedIn profile describes him as a PC at the City of Hamilton for the past 11 years.
He has appeared on the provincial Sunshine List since 2015 for earning over $100,000 in his public service position.
His salary in 2015 was $105,931.32, which went up to $131,107.87 in 2021.
Patrick’s mother Olga is saddened by the incident and said it’s not the first time her son faced police brutality. It was only this time it was caught on video.
“I don’t think it’s right,” she said. “They get away with it. If you’re here to protect and serve, don’t do this to my son. Please.”
She said her son is “no angel” but has sustained injuries from the incident and is now on medication to deal with the pain.
Olga said the force used to deal with her son was “excessive. He knows he didn’t fight back. Usually Patrick gets up and runs but he didn’t this time. He just laid there. It was a good thing there was a civilian there taping all this.”
Members of the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre are advocating on behalf of Patrick and his family and are calling on police to make changes in how the force interacts with Indigenous people in the city.
Audrey Davis, executive director of the HRIC, said there might not have been charges against the officer if there was no video evidence, leading her and others to call for all police to wear body cams at all times.
“All too often, their (Indigenous people’s) stories are not taken seriously, or dismissed, or it is they who are victimized. It is important to call attention to these matters as they arise and advocate for change that is already too late in coming. Society must always hold police accountable.”