1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

‘That video is of my son’: The eerily parallel lives of a convicted cop and his victim

Avery Haines | posted Wednesday, Mar 15th, 2017

I woke up on Saturday morning to a Facebook message.

A message from one mom to another. Her son, who had spent Christmas dinner at my house a couple of years ago, had unwittingly played a starring role in an investigation I had just aired on CityNews called Convict Cops.

Graphic

The story was initially only supposed to be about numbers and the near impossibility of accessing those numbers. How many police officers had been convicted of a crime, and what happened to them after those convictions?

Getting the data from five police forces took weeks, and access to that information relied heavily on the varying goodwill of the different police services of York, Durham, Peel, Halton and Toronto. I discovered that at least 59 police officers across the GTHA had police tribunal hearings scheduled in the last four years for convictions ranging from domestic and sexual assault to weapons, drugs and drunk driving. Only five of those officers were fired following their convictions.

Toronto Constable Gary Gould was one of the cops who lost his job, after he was captured on his cruiser dash cam beating a drunk and handcuffed suspect.

When you watch that video, you likely make a snap judgement about both the cop and the spitter. Bad cop. Bad kid. But the truth is far murkier.

After the story aired, Gould reached out to me. I went to his house to interview him, and he shared a powerful story of what had happened in his life in the moments and years before he “snapped” and started wailing on a drunk suspect who had spit on him.

Gould made it very clear he’s not making excuses for what he did that night, but felt it was important for people know that he had been crying out for help for years, had tried to end his life a few months before the assault, was struggling with alcohol addiction, and felt Toronto police did nothing to try to get him help.

For me, hearing from Gary elevated the discussion about “convict cops” and launched a side-investigation into just what kind of services are available for officers suffering from job-related stress. His words reminded me that a numbers story is never just numbers. That each of those officers had untold backstories; that it’s never black and white; that life is a jagged space of grey; that everyone is someone’s mother, or father or son. It’s not about excuses, it’s about context and compassion.

The stories aired and, with Gary’s interview, the comments turned from condemnation of a “bad cop” to questions about the bigger issues of mental health and support for officers. There were a number of comments too, about the “drunk idiot” who deserved to be punched because, after all, what kind of a person spits in the face of a cop?

And then Saturday, the Facebook message from a stranger, the mother of my son’s friend who was captured in a video I had watched again and again as part of my research, not knowing that this “drunk idiot” was a 19 year old who’d been to my house for dinner.

I invited Chris back to my house this week. He’d watched the dash cam video again and again, having little to no recollection of that night. He’d never heard the backstory of the cop who laid a beating on him. I played him the interview.

A story about numbers all of a sudden became a story about two lives, so different and yet so eerily similar.

The mental health issues, the suicide attempts, the addiction, the cries for help, each losing their jobs when their darkest moments were captured on camera.

What are the odds that these two men would find each other at their very worst, and have those minutes of violence captured on camera. A moment in time that cost both of them their jobs, but also, ultimately, may have saved their lives.

Gary Gould, pointing to his head, told me: “Up here, I’m at the best I’ve ever been. It’s the first time I have felt happiness in a long, long time. I owe that strictly to being forced out of the Service. It was a blessing in disguise.”

Christopher, sitting by the same dining table where we had eaten a Christmas dinner together, told me he plans to go back to school and has been sober for nine months. “I want my mom to be happy. I want her to be happy with where I am heading in life. I want her to know that her son is okay.”

Christopher told me he’d never thought a cop could be going through the same things he was struggling with, that hearing Gary’s story made him wonder whether they were somehow destined to meet and change each other’s lives.  Now 23 years old, Christopher said if he met Gary Gould he’d likely cry and give him a hug. I called Gary last night to tell him about my interview with Christopher.

Before we said goodbye, he told me, if he met Christopher, he would return that hug, with gratitude.

Comments

  • No comments have been left yet, get the conversation started!

Leave a Comment Below

Sign in to comment.

All fields are required.

Want to embed media into your comment? Just paste in a URL in a separate paragraph to the page where you would normally view the media (like on YouTube) and it will automatically be embedded into your comment.