A Nigerian woman, Sarah Soyemi, who is based in Ontario, Canada, has alleged that she was brutalised by police officers after which she was charged with various offences.
The 36-year-old single mother of twin boys said she was selling detox tea outside White Oaks Mall when a police officer grabbed her without explanation and another officer punched her, leaving her with a black eye, London Free Press reports.
"It's just been a lot. It's so unbelievable," said Soyemi, a single mother of twin boys.
However, the London Police Service (LPS) in Canada said it is conducting an internal review to understand what happened.
"While we disagree with some of the particulars of how this interaction has been described, the LPS takes all allegations of this nature very seriously, and as such the chief has directed that a review of this incident be conducted," Const. Sandasha Bough wrote in an email.
According to the police, an officer called to the mall encountered a woman who had previously been banned from the property and was refusing to leave.
The officer arrested the woman, leading to a struggle that drew in more officers and left one of them and the woman with minor injuries, police said.
Meanwhile, Soyemi said she was in the White Oaks Mall parking lot talking to people about the tea she sells as an independent contractor when she was approached by a security guard.
Soyemi said she told the guard she planned to leave within an hour, "Because I'm still new here in London, I haven't met a lot of people and I usually go to the mall where people leave their homes and go," said Soyemi, who moved from Toronto to London in Canada six months ago.
She left Nigeria in 2018 and said she supports her family with her tea sales and money from the Ontario Works programme.
Soyemi said that when a police van pulled up alongside her, she didn't realize it was for her.
"[The female officer] came out of the van and charged at me. She didn't have any conversation, I didn't get to see who she was — she just came right out of the van and tried to hold on to me."
Soyemi said she stepped back and yelled to the officer, "'Don't touch me. I didn't do anything so why are you coming to touch me?'"
Yesterday, Ontario’s police watchdog said it has been unable to speak with Soyemi despite various attempts.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) spokesperson Kristy Denette said unsuccessful efforts were made to contact Soyemi after being alerted to an online fundraiser in which she claims to have a detached retina, an eye injury that can lead to loss of vision if not treated.
Soyemi created the fundraiser through GoFundMe on May 19 — the same day news media started picking up her story after it was shared by Black Lives Matter London — with the goal of raising $250,000 for surgery to repair her vision and sue police.
An injury that requires hospitalisation typically meets the SIU’s threshold of being serious, but documentation is required to back up claims, Denette said on Friday.
“We need her medical records and to hear from her,” Denette said of Soyemi. “The door is open. If she wants to contact the SIU and pursue this further we would encourage her to come forward.”