Ottawa police apologize after 911 call where white woman reports Black man in a park


Idil Mussa ·

 CBC News · Posted: Jul 10, 2020

Ntwali Bashizi said police initially asked him to stop intimidating a white woman who called 911 because he was resting on a bridge she wanted to cross. (Submitted by Ntwali Bashizi)

Ottawa police are apologizing for their handling of a 911 call from a white woman about a Black man she said wouldn’t move out of her way on a popular park trail.

Ntwali Bashizi, 21, was riding his bike on the Stonebridge Trail along the Jock River in Barrhaven on Monday afternoon when he stopped on a bridge for a short rest. He said he was listening to music on his headphones when he noticed a woman standing at the other end of the bridge.

“I noticed her sort of like yelling toward me or talking toward me,” the Carleton University student said.

“She said, ‘I’m going to wait here for you to get off the bridge,’ and, ‘You need to get off the bridge and let me walk by,’ ” he said.

She was trying to use [police] as a weapon against me.- Ntwali Bashizi

Bashizi told her it was within her right to wait until he was finished his rest, but there was enough distance between them for her to cross safely while adhering to physical distancing measures.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not we cross paths on the bridge or we cross paths on the trail,” he said he told her, noting it was the exact same distance either way. 

Bashizi said she called him a “jackass” and started taking photos of him before calling the police.

That’s when he said he also began recording the incident, which he eventually posted to Instagram.

White woman calls 911 to complain about Black resident on Ottawa hiking trail

Ntwali Bashizi was riding his bike on a trail in Barrhaven when he paused on a bridge to take a break. He says a fellow hiker demanded he move from the bridge so she could pass, an interaction that resulted in her calling police and making threatening comments. CBC has obscured the woman’s face because we were unable to identify or interview her. 1:15

“She’s there for about five minutes on the phone with the police, like pleading for them to come and get me off of the bridge. She tells me to wait there, the police is coming,” he said.

After the phone call, Bashizi asked the woman if police were on their way. He claims she replied: “It’s not the police coming, but someone is coming to get you.”

Police on speaker phone

Bashizi said she later walked by again with police on speaker phone.

In the video Bashizi posted, someone can be heard on the woman’s phone identifying themselves as a member of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) and telling Bashizi, “You’re intimidating her, sir. Can you just stand to the side?”

Police said the woman told the dispatcher she felt “intimidated” by Bashizi, although she can be seen in his video walking past him on the bridge while on the phone with police.

In a statement to CBC, the OPS said it is reviewing the incident.

“At this point it is clear that this was not an appropriate use of the 911 system and the service did not act appropriately in handling the call,” the statement said. 

It also said OPS had reached out to Bashizi and spoken with him on Thursday.

“Further conversations will take place today where we will be offering a full and unreserved apology for our role in this very unfortunate incident,” the statement said.

Ottawa lawyer Michael Spratt, who is representing Bashizi, said that although police did not give his client access to the recorded call, they did confirm the woman mentioned his race twice.  

Incident ‘a learning opportunity,’ police say

In an interview with CBC, acting deputy chief Mark Ford said this incident is a learning opportunity for police when it comes to handling these types of situations.

“The call-taker echoes the woman’s sentiment that she feels intimidated,” he said. “When we talk about disputes like this, there are multiple perspectives.”

Bashizi said he’s still upset by the incident.

“She was trying to use [police] as a weapon against me,” he said. 

“A lot of people like to say that Canada is very multicultural, very accepting of other people, but there are still some people that do recognize their privilege … and will try and use that against other people.”

CBC has not confirmed the identity of the woman who called 911.

Comparisons to Amy Cooper 

Bashizi’s video has drawn comparisons to an incident in May where a white woman named Amy Cooper called police during a videotaped dispute with a Black man — over walking her dog without a leash in New York City’s Central Park. 

Cooper drew widespread condemnation for frantically calling 911 to claim she was being threatened by “an African-American man,” birdwatcher Christian Cooper. He recorded the confrontation, which went viral when his sister posted it on social media. 

On Monday, Amy Cooper was charged with filing a false police report, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

Source: CBC News