For four years, 70-year-old crossing guard Muhammed Hameed has stood at the crosswalk outside Mount Joy Public School in Markham, helping children to safely cross the street.
But on Tuesday morning, just as students and parents were arriving to drop their kids off at school, that familiar routine was interrupted. Hameed told Global News that even after he had raised his sign signalling the vehicles to stop, a vehicle kept going.
“I banged on the vehicle to stop because children are crossing there in front, but nothing happened,” said Hameed.
Witnesses said the driver eventually came to a stop and the passenger hopped out of his vehicle and approached Hameed.
“He grabbed me, pulled my collar up and tore my vest off and he pushed me across the road,” said Hameed.
“He was telling me, ‘I’m a police officer and you are a crossing guard, how can you stop me?'”
Cellphone video shared with Global News showed the off-duty Toronto police officer holding Hameed against a vehicle as witnesses behind the camera protested the arrest.
Hameed’s daughter, Safra Najeemudeen, happened to be passing by at the time of the arrest after dropping her children off at school.
She said the off-duty officer detained her father for nearly 15 minutes before York Regional Police arrived on scene and immediately arrested her father — without asking any questions.
“You’re handcuffing him without even talking to us — without asking any questions? But I guess that’s just how police works?” said Najeemudeen.
Hameed said he became so distressed during the incident that he passed out in the back of the cruiser after his requests for water went unanswered. His daughter said before this happened, she repeatedly expressed her concerns to police about her father’s health.
“When the police came, I could see in my father’s face he was really distraught,” said Najeemudeen.
“So I mentioned to the female officer, ‘You know what I think, he might have a heart attack,’ because I could see he was so stressed.”
A York Regional Police spokesperson said they were originally responding to a mischief call.
“When our officers arrived, the initial information that they had was that a mischief had taken place and that person had been responsible for the mischief so they arrested the individual and took him into custody,” the spokesperson said.
Toronto police declined to comment further since it’s still an active investigation.
Hameed was later released from custody without charges. He told Global News he plans to head back to work after he gets the go-ahead from his doctor. But Hameed said he has one question for police who arrested him that day.
“I’d like to know what I did wrong so I can react to that. They’re not telling me anything,” he said.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.