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The young man who was arrested in downtown Barrie on Thursday during a violent altercation with police is speaking out about what happened.
“I'm not proud of how I handled myself," Skyler Kent, 20, told BarrieToday on Friday. "I definitely wasn't in the wrong, but I could've been calmer. I'm all right now with everyone's support and being home.”
On the advice of his lawyer, Kent said he would not comment further.
BarrieToday also reached out to Kent's lawyer, but the message was not returned.
Kent has been charged with causing a disturbance and assault with attempt to resist arrest. He was released on a promise to appear in court and an undertaking.
The incident occurred Thursday around 3 p.m. along Dunlop Street East in downtown Barrie, near Owen Street and in front of Meridian Place. Videos of the arrest quickly began circulating on social media.
At one point in one of the videos obtained by BarrieToday, the officer flips the young man over and strikes him in the back of the head.
Another video shows the officer on top of the man with a taser to his shoulder. The officer asks, “Do you want this?” followed by “Put your hands behind your back right now or I’m lighting you up.”
Bystanders can be heard asking the man to stop resisting, as well as telling the officer involved and those approaching that it was excessive force.
On Friday, Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood said she has called in Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to investigate the Dunlop Street arrest and conduct of the Barrie police officer involved.
The OPP Professional Standards Unit wants to speak anyone who was present at the time of the occurrence is asked to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122.
In a statement, Greenwood said the decision was based on a need for transparency and accountability.
“I acknowledge the public’s concerns being expressed based on the limited availability of information at this time," she said. "I want to assure the community that any findings of misconduct will be pursued. I remain dedicated and supportive of our service and the continued professionalism of our members during times when our actions are questioned."
In an interview with BarrieToday on Thursday, Kelly Platt, who recorded one of the videos, said the incident initially started down the street when Kent went through a red light at Five Points on his skateboard.
Platt’s husband, who was working downtown, told her the young man received a ticket and began skateboarding again eastbound on Dunlop Street.
“That's where the cop car chased him down and swerved in front of him,” she said. “I heard him asking the officer why he was still bothering him after he already gave him a ticket.”
Coun. Keenan Aylwin — who represents the city's downtown and has been a supporter of reallocating police funding to social services and other areas in what's known as the 'defund the police' movement — says he has seen incidents like this before in Barrie, but was particularly upset by Thursday’s altercation.
"I’m very disturbed by what I saw. And while this isn’t the first incident like this that we’ve seen in our city, it’s still jarring to see that level of violence taking place in the heart of our downtown,” Aylwin told BarrieToday.
On Jan. 25 at city council, Aylwin was the only councillor to vote against the police budget.
However, Aylwin said he wanted to keep the focus on what happened downtown Thursday afternoon.
“I hope that young man is OK and has the support he needs. We also need to demand accountability for all officers involved, not just the one who committed the acts of violence, but also those who stood by and watched without intervening," he said.
“We know that systems of police accountability in Ontario are fundamentally flawed and I hope this can be the impetus for a much-needed overhaul of the policing system in our province and locally,” Aylwin added. “I hope the investigation into this incident is thorough and truly independent. The public deserves to know the details of what occurred."