Men launch legal action after alleged attacks by Vancouver mall guards
Three Vancouver men are taking legal action and filing a human rights complaint after they were allegedly roughed up by private security guards who patrol Harbour Centre Mall.
Shawn Alexander, Richard Kreke, and Luis Larrain all claim they were singled out by employees of Fusion Security during two separate incidents in October and December 2010.
With the help of Pivot Legal Society, the men are taking action in small claims court and filing a human rights complaint against the downtown mall, the Vancouver-based security firm, and the guards.
Pivot lawyer Douglas King said the men, who are unemployed but have housing, were all dragged to secluded areas in the mall out of view of security cameras before they were allegedly attacked and handcuffed.
“There’s nothing in the law and certainly there’s nothing in the legal sphere that would authorize them [the guards] to use the force that we think that they used on these men,” King told reporters during a news conference today (June 28).
“What we’re here to say today is that when private security single out people because of the way that they look and they physically assault them there has to be repercussions for that.”
None of the men’s allegations has been proven in court.
On October 10, Alexander and Kreke claim they visited Harbour Centre to buy alcohol at a public liquor store but were told by security guards, without explanation, that they were not allowed in the mall.
Alexander, 36, and Kreke, 55, proceeded to purchase alcohol and as they were leaving the mall they were again approached by two security guards who allegedly dragged the two friends into a stairwell area and shut the door behind.
Alexander claims he was then tossed to the ground and suffered a significant head injury that required stitches. Both men were allegedly hit and handcuffed.
“I was beaten up pretty badly, like really badly,” Alexander told reporters today.
“I didn’t have any idea what was going on. I was like, ”˜What’s going on? What did I do?’”
Larrain’s story is similar.
On December 24, he was selling the Hope in Shadows calendar outside of Waterfront Station when he entered the nearby mall in desperate need of a washroom.
The previous day, he had been ejected from Harbour Centre after a guard saw him sell the charitable calendar to a woman on mall property.
The same security guard recognized and approached Larrain, a regular visitor to the mall, when he returned to use the washroom.
The guard indicated he could use the washroom, but before Larrain could get there the guard allegedly dragged him into a stairwell area and tossed him to the ground. A second guard was called and Larrain was handcuffed.
During the incident, Larrain soiled himself, allegedly drawing laughter from the guards.
Larrain claims he suffered injuries including a fractured shoulder, severe bruising to his torso and left arm, and an eye infection from being pushed to the floor.
“I think it’s not fair,” Larrain told reporters today.
“They’re not allowed to do that. They’re not police officers. They handcuffed me for nothing. I did nothing wrong.”
Vancouver police attended and investigated both incidents at the mall on West Hastings Street but no charges have been laid, according to Pivot, a Downtown Eastside legal advocacy group.
Harbour Centre released a statement this afternoon acknowledging that management is concerned about the statements of claim filed by the three men.
“We have been advised by counsel to forego comment on the substance of these claims while the matter is before the courts,” reads the statement from Harbour Centre general manager Douglas Hume.
The statement also says: “At Harbour Centre, we are committed to providing security and protection to our tenants, their clients, customers and visitors. At the same time we ensure that the public has access to the public areas of the centre without bias, prejudice or discrimination.”
“We also have a mandate to ensure that members of the public on our property do not verbally or physically threaten any tenant, visitor, customer, employee or staff member nor threaten to do physical damage to property.”
“Our security services are contracted out to Fusion Security, a reputable firm whose employees are provincially licensed.”
Fusion Security also responded to legal action and the human rights complaint with a statement this afternoon.
“As the allegations in both incidents are before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and small claims court, Fusion Security has been advised to not comment on the substance of the information filed,” reads the statement from company vice president Harry Stausgaard.
The statement adds: “At Fusion Security Ltd. we take pride in providing our clients and their tenants with a safe and secure environment to conduct day to day activities and business within. To this end we work closely with our clients, the community and law enforcement and will continue to do so.”