A former Canadian Football League player has launched a $144.6-million civil lawsuit against Peel Regional Police for an attack he claims was racially motivated.
Oreth (Orlando) Bowen, who played for the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats between 2000-2003, announced the lawsuit yesterday in the presence of his two lawyers, his wife, Skye, and his father-in-law, former CFL star quarterback Chuck Ealey.
Bowen, 30, was arrested and charged with drug possession and assaulting a police officer on March 26, 2004. He suffered a concussion and injured ribs and spent 12 hours in jail without receiving medical attention or the opportunity to speak to his lawyer, he said. He said he still suffers headaches and pain in his ribs and has a visible mark on his head from the beating. Bowen pled his innocence and insisted the drugs were planted on him by the officers.
He was acquitted last December of all charges by Ontario Court Justice Ford Clements, who found "inconsistencies and contradictions" in the chronology of events presented by the two arresting officers. He concluded the officers' evidence was "incredible and not worthy of belief."
One of the arresting officers, Const. Sheldon Cook, faces criminal charges of trafficking cocaine and breach of trust in Brampton. His arrest happened while Bowen's case was still underway.
Bowen's lawyer Julian Falconer claimed yesterday the beating his client took is strictly race-related.
The allegations in the lawsuit have not been tested in court.
"No person in this country should have to undergo the level of beating, mistreatment, prosecution this man and his family went through because of the colour of his skin," Falconer said. "A man engaged in a successful football career has had that career stolen from him.
"Finally being in power to fight back I encouraged him to speak from the heart on these issues. This isn't just about legal processes, it's about accountability."
Bowen said he has been disheartened by what happened after the arrest given his work with Peel Regional Police and schools on anti-violence and anti-bullying.
'APOLOGIES ARE GOOD'
"There have been a number of officers that have come up to me since my acquittal and have apologized for what my family has been through," he said. "Apologies are good, but really and truly the question to be asked now is: What now? This is where we're at. This is what has happened. Where do we go from here? There has to be some sense of accountability that things have to change.
"I've always been raised to not make excuses and not pull the race card -- to say this is happening because I'm black -- but because of what transpired that night, there are no other reasons other than I am a minority.
"It's difficult to be here, yet just losing the ability to provide for my family that's an incredible thing in itself."
Peel Regional Police had no comment on the lawsuit.