Two years after she was accidentally shot in the stomach by Peel police, a Mississauga woman says she was roughly treated by the same police force last week in a new incident that came as a result of what she calls a false complaint.
Chantelle Krupka, 36, says Peel police officers violently arrested her and her fiancé, Michael Headley, on the morning of Nov. 1, while they were taking their puppy out for a walk.
She says police held them in custody for seven hours, denied her pleas to let a caregiver come for her young son and an infant at home, and turned the couple’s home upside down in the presence of their children.
Two years ago, police Tasered Krupka in the back and shot one bullet in her abdomen on Mother’s Day when they were responding to a call by her ex-partner. They had come to issue a warning to her about text messages that had been sent. Last year, an officer was sentenced to 18 months’ probation after pleading guilty to careless use of a firearm in the incident. The officer apologized to Krupka, for what the officer said was the act of mistakenly pulling out and discharging her firearm, thinking it was her Taser. Krupka’s lawsuit against the police force is still pending.
For Krupka, the latest incident is a compounding trauma.
“I was wrongfully shot, we were wrongfully attacked by the police,” Krupka told the Star this week. “That was extremely traumatic for us, just to go through this again.”
Peel Regional Police confirmed it “responded to a call for service in response to serious criminal allegation” on Nov. 1.
“At this time the investigation is ongoing and we cannot provide further details,” police spokesperson Jennifer Trimble told the Star in response to a list of questions.
The incident as described by Krupka raises the spectre of the slow burn of racism, the kind that continues long after protesters have gone home, after politicians have said the right words and after corporations have slowly ticked a few boxes pushed forward by HR.
It reminds us of how Black people can find their fates reliant on the depleting goodwill of non-Black people and those who know just how to activate the weight of the state machinery to tackle personal disputes. It’s no secret; it’s a simple matter of leaning on that oldest and sturdiest of tropes against Black people — that they are threatening.
In this saga, of the three parties involved — Krupka and her partner, the complainants and the police — it’s the Black couple who have the least social power. We have seen time and time again that it is Black people for whom the price of the slightest deviation from norms is a risk to their own physical safety, a risk to their children’s future and a risk to their basic liberties.
While it is impossible to know the complete story at this point, what we do know raises genuine concerns.
The incident began, Krupka says, on Halloween night.
She and Headley were driving along a street in Mississauga when they saw, sitting in an idling car, a contractor who Krupka alleges owed Headley and his brother $5,000 in unpaid wages for work done almost a decade ago.
What follows are examples of the confrontation from a recording Krupka took of the incident that the Star has seen.
She recorded it because, she said, “This is what we have to do to be believed.”
The recording begins with Krupka asking him, “You owe him money? Why don’t you owe him money? Because he worked for free?
The man in the other car is seen smiling.
“Did you pay him when he worked? How much did you pay him?” she asks. He says something unintelligible. “Liar. You lied,” says Krupka.
A woman who appears to be the man’s wife gets involved in the discussion. “Your husband likes slave labour,” Krupka tells her. “He likes to use Black men for free labour. He owes my husband money.”
“No, he paid them,” the woman says. “I was there. He paid him … Why would you be coming all of a sudden now?”
“ ’Cause we see you outside,” Krupka says. “I’m here all the time, picking up my son. We pass by your house many times. Now we see you outside. So now I’m saying something about it.”
After this, the conversation rapidly devolves into a loud shouting match with angry cuss words thrown in. At one point the wife says, “This guy had nowhere to go, he stayed right here,” and Headley says, “If I’d got my f—–g money, I wouldn’t have had to stay anywhere.” Krupka keeps repeating “Why would he lie to you?”
Shortly after, the man says, “I guess I’m going to call the cops on you.”
“That’s what you do,” Headley responds. “Of course that’s what you’re gonna do,” Krupka says. “Don’t worry. We’ll protest right outside your house. We’ll bring a whole slew of people … Go right ahead. We’re going to protest. No one’s lying on you. You’re a thief. You’re a thief. You’re going to lose a hundred thousand times more.”
The battle of words escalates beyond conciliation. Just then a baby begins to cry in the background and Krupka wraps it up, the car is seen moving and the video ends.
Thus far, it might be fair to assume that the other couple were going about their lives and felt accosted by someone saying they owed them money from the past.
What might reasonable people do? Call a close friend and vent? Spill it all out angrily in a social media post? To give them abundant benefit of the doubt, perhaps the couple felt shaken, even harassed, and called the police for reassurance.
What is not understandable, given what is shown in the video, at least, is the content of their complaint.
The next morning, Krupka and Headley were walking the dog in their complex when she says they were swarmed by police, who pushed Headley to the ground at gunpoint and arrested him.
“I was afraid that we were going to be hurt again,” Krupka said. “And then especially because Michael was on the ground. I always fear, more so in interactions with police, that this could be a lethal interaction. And I don’t have to do anything wrong to even get there. They can take it there and they can kill us and they can get away with it.”
In Peel, Black people are three times more likely than their representation in the general population to be subject to use of force by police, according to an annual report last summer. Its officers were also 3.7 times more likely to use force on Black people than white people.
Police handcuffed Krupka and took the couple to the police station while they searched their house with the couple’s children there: a 12-year-old boy and a 16-month-old infant, who is still nursing.
According to the search warrant Krupka was given, police were looking in their house and car for “firearms, projectiles, ammunition and/or firearm components.”
“I was arrested that morning for extortion, uttering threat and knowledge of firearm and vehicle,” Krupka said, “Michael was arrested for pointing a firearm and uttering threat.”
Pointing a firearm?
“The woman had made accusations that we had pointed a gun at her and her husband and threatened to kill her and her family,” Krupka said.
A Peel police spokesperson confirmed to the Star that the complaint Krupka had cited came after a person called 911 saying someone had pointed a gun at them, and that the person who pointed a gun left in a car after.
Neither she nor Headley owns a gun, Krupka said. Nor did they have one that evening, they said.
All the white couple had to do was mention guns, and the police came charging. This is our system in action.
Krupka said she needed to nurse her 16-month-old but the police detained them. Given that the charges against Krupka were uttering death threats and “knowledge of firearm,” could she, at least, have been dealt with more care and compassion?
Could the police have offered the couple the opportunity to give their version of events, gathered the evidence and then decided whether or not to press charges?
“Both of us were cuffed extremely tightly, both of our wrists have lacerations and bruises still,” Krupka said. “We were treated like animals, we really were, for … for nothing. We were walking our puppy. We have nothing but puppy treats and baby socks in the pocket. We’re parents just trying to live our lives. We don’t break any laws and still were treated like this. It’s infuriating.”
As it turned out, it was prescient of Krupka to have recorded the conversation. The police let them go after seven hours in detention. They were released unconditionally, and no charges have been laid.
Shree Paradkar is a Toronto-based columnist covering issues around social and racial justice for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @ShreeParadkar
This content was originally published here.