LETHBRIDGE - "This isn't the first racist rant we've heard in Canada. It won’t be the last."
Lethbridge Police Chief Rob Davis says people need to stick up for one another when they hear someone uttering racist and demeaning comments like those Kelly Pocha made at the Denny's restaurant April 21.
That night, by her own admission in an exclusive interview with LNN, Cranbrook B.C.'s Kelly Pocha had been drinking. She and her husband stopped in at the restaurant and ordered some food.
Pocha says several men were staring at her, laughing and making comments that she believed were directed towards her. She said she was "provoked" and became angry - and the video that shows her making racist comments to Monir Omerzai and his friends were her reaction to those taunts.
Davis says just before 1 a.m., a call came in to police as a "fight in progress."
"Upon our arrival the two groups had already been separated by the Denny's staff. The manager specifically spoke with our officers, and he exercised his option of asking both groups to leave. He has the ability to refuse service, to ask them to leave, with the ultimate goal being to preserve the peace of his establishment."
He explained that officers stood by to make sure everyone left voluntarily and based on the information at the time, there was insufficient information for charges. Omerzai and his group left first, followed by Pocha and her husband.
"You have to put yourself in the position of police. It's the weekend. It's 12:50 a.m. It's not uncommon for us to get calls of a disturbance, whether it be at a restaurant in the bar district, you name it."
Cst. Liam Breedon, who is now in charge of the investigation, told media that four people have so far been interviewed, that information from the attending officers at the time has been gathered, and that surveillance video was also reviewed.
Breedon says at this point, they have not reached out to, or contacted Pocha, but they aren't ruling it out.
Addressing comments made on social media about police actions that night, Davis said that they also wanted to clear up some misinformation.
"We stood by to support the management staff at Denny's as they asked the groups to leave. We did engage in conversation with both groups obviously, but to kill that rumor that we escorted one group out is absolutely false, and we have the video to support that."
He also said the group of men were not forced to leave without their food, or to pay for their food.
"The men agreed to leave. They had not yet received their food, and they were not required to pay for the items they had requested."
He says it's easy to be an "armchair quarterback" while on social media, without having all the facts.
"I find it very ironic and interesting that those who are advocating for tolerance, are demonstrating the least amount of tolerance, specifically aimed at the police.
"Social media in itself is not evidence. It's commentary. It's opinion. But it is not evidence. We are in the facts and evidence business."
And he praised a young woman who also posted a video showing Pocha yelling at the men, saying more people need to stand up against others who are acting inappropriately.
"There's somebody off camera who stands up to the lady in question. And as a society I think that's where we should go. We don't need to shove these things into the judicial system. If we as a society stand up for one another, and stand up for what's right in this country, I think that's the step in the right direction."
At this point, Davis won't speculate about whether any charges will be laid saying it's too early in the investigation. He did say that the threshold for hate crime in Canada is so high, it would require the Attorney General's approval, and based on his experience, getting that is unlikely.
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