Members of the public watched with a mixture of outrage and indifference as private security guards in Victoria arrested a young man in the middle of a busy shopping centre Wednesday afternoon.
A video of the incident shot by Kristy Westendorp and uploaded to Facebook shows at least two male security guards pinning the man to the ground in the outdoor court of Uptown Shopping Centre. Westendorp wrote in the video’s description that she captured the incident while her children had been playing near a fountain popular with families.
According to Westendorp’s description, the person on the ground had grabbed a bag of cans from a recycling station. Immediately, a security guard restrained “him by the back of his shirt to the point it was choking him.”
“He then got the guy down on the ground and a second guard sprinted in and they both restrained him and finally a third joined,” she wrote. “The man on the ground was bleeding from multiple places including his face and mouth. If you don’t know Uptown well, this location is about ten steps away from where children were playing. This is unacceptable.”
The video — which had received more than 153,000 views as of Thursday afternoon — begins with the two private security guards already holding the man to the ground, who declares his innocence.
“I didn’t do anything, ” he said. “I didn’t do anything.” By that time, one of the private security guards had pinned the man’s head between his legs.
The man then intensified his screams and asked why the men were pinning him down.
“Because you spit in my face,” said the other security guard.
“I did not spit in your face,” the man replied. “I did not spit in your [expletive] face, you moron. I did not spit in your face.”
When the security guard reiterated his charge, the man on the ground grew more agitated, and struggled in vain to escape. A third man of unknown affliation then assisted the two security guards, who eventually managed to tie the man’s hands behind his back.
Viewers can then hear the voice of a woman. “You have already hurt him, over some cans,” said the woman. The man — who appears to be in his mid-20s — reiterated his innocence, but appeared more calm. Moments later, one of the security guards turns towards the camera — and presumably individuals standing behind it and next to it — with an appeal to call 9-1-1.
“Make it clear that they assaulted this man over some cans, when you call,” said the woman’s voice. “He is bleeding.”
As the video continues to play, the man asks the guards to let him sit up. They refuse and continue to pin him to the ground with his chin resting on the stone.
Several seconds later, viewers can hear a crying child and the voice of the woman. “You are seriously hurting him,” she says, as the child continues to cry. “It’s not okay.”
Real-time reactions to the arrest as captured by the video varied. Some shoppers and staff appear watching the scene from a distance. Others gave it brief glance before going on with their business. Towards the end of the video, a young man wearing headphones and carrying shopping bags simply walks past the scene without looking down.
Saanich Police are now investigating
“I can confirm we were called to Uptown at around 5:15 p.m. yesterday regarding this incident,” said Sgt. Jereme Leslie. “We’re also in possession of the video. The matter is under investigation and, as part of the investigation, we’re attempting to determine exactly what occurred prior to this video starting. Unfortunately there’s nothing more I can add at this time.”
Seth Fruson, president and CEO of Guardteck Security, said in a release that the company apologize to those whom the video upset.
“We do know that there was much more to the situation than what was shown in the video,” he said. “The person detained has a history of violent action in the mall, including assault, theft, damage to property and mischief. He has been legally banned from the premises. When he was approached by our staff, he immediately became agitated, and assaulted one of our officers.”
Fruson said elsewhere in the release that the company works hard to avoid these “unfortunate circumstances” and that it will review this incident with an eye towards future improvements.
Ashley Mollison, a community activist, criticized Fruson’s statement in calling on Guardteck Security to take “responsibility for this disgusting display of violence against a human being” in a Tweet.
The Saanich News also contacted Uptown management and will add any comments as they become available.