Police watchdog investigating controversial arrest at Halifax Walmart

Nova Scotia’s police watchdog is investigating the controversial arrest of a young black woman at a Halifax Walmart that occurred last week and wants to speak to witnesses.

On Jan. 15, Halifax Regional Police were called to the Walmart on Mumford Road to investigate a complaint. While on site, police “had an interaction with an adult female who sustained an injury,” the Serious Incident Response Team stated in a news release.

Santina Rao, 23, told several media outlets last week that she was approached by police officers while shopping with her two young children. She said police believed she was concealing items and that she became upset when they cuffed her without explaining why she was being arrested.

The Halifax Examiner posted a video to YouTube that shows part of the altercation. It shows Rao swearing at a police officer to get off her before one officer physically brings her to the ground as they struggle. Two officers appear to restrain Rao as staff members in the background look on.

The incident has been described as racial profiling. On Tuesday, former Nova Scotia lieutenant-governor Mayann Francis said the arrest left her shaken and even fearful of police for the first time.

The Serious Incident Response Team, also known as SIRT, investigates actions of police that may have led to serious injury or death, or where those actions may raise a significant public interest.

“After some initial investigation, it has been determined, based on medical records, the matter meets SIRT’s mandate,” the organization said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

SIRT wants to speak with witnesses. Investigators can be reached at 1-855-450-2010.


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