A London, Ontario based Nigerian woman who was selling detox tea outside White Oaks Mall says a police officer grabbed her without explanation and another officer punched her, leaving her with a black eye, before she was charged with various offences.
Sarah Soyemi, 36, was charged last week with failing to leave the premises when directed, resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer.
“It’s just been a lot. It’s so unbelievable,” said Soyemi, a single mother of twin boys.
She posted about the incident on social media, and it has been viewed and shared thousands of times.
On Thursday, the London Police Service (LPS) 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.
A London police news release issued May 11, a day after the incident, says an officer had approached the woman and she “refused to leave when directed. When the officer advised the woman that she was under arrest for trespassing, she resisted arrest and became combative with police.”
The release says more officers were dispatched to help, and at that time “the suspect continued to assault the officer and resist arrest.”
“Both the officer and the suspect sustained minor injuries,” it says.
‘Don’t touch me,’ Soyemi says she told police
According to Soyemi, 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 six months ago.
She left Nigeria in 2018, and said she supports her family with her tea sales and money from the Ontario Works program.
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?’