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Cell phone video shows man didn't assault cops -- even though phone mysteriously disappeared

Technically Incorrect: A Toronto man is lucky that his phone automatically uploads images and videos to a Google account.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


It was Sheik-Qasim's Google account that saved him. Claudia Cruz/CNET

Whenever there are contentious encounters between police and the public, both sides now have to consider what a smartphone camera might have caught. This doesn't appear to have happened when the Toronto police charged Abdi Sheik-Qasim with assault.

As the Toronto Star reports, Sheik-Qasim was arrested at his uncle's house in January 2014. Two Toronto police officers arrived at the house to investigate a noise complaint. Music was playing too loud. Sheik-Qasim said the music level was immediately lowered. However, the police allegedly insisted on entering the apartment. They had no warrant, according to the Star.

Skeik-Qasim filmed what happened next on his phone. This turned out to be a useful move given that subsequent events led to Skeik-Qasim being arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer and failing to comply with a court order.

Video of his booking at the police station allegedly showed him asking to get his phone back. When he was finally released, the police gave him his belongings back. Skeik-Qasim's phone, however, was not among them, according to the Star.

When Sheik-Qasim got home, there was an email waiting for him. It was from Google and contained the 10-second smartphone video of his encounter with police. Sheik-Qasim had enabled a feature on his phone that automatically uploads video files to his Google account.

The case went to trial. The Toronto police claimed Sheik-Qasim had reached for one officer's belt, but the smartphone footage showed otherwise, according to the Star. Ontario Court Justice Edward Kelly said in a decision issued earlier this month that the images showed Officer Piara Dhaliwal had struck Sheik-Qasim, not the other way around.

Worse, Kelly called the officers' testimony "deliberately misleading."

Kelly noted that it would have been slightly odd if Sheik-Qasim had turned on his cell phone camera first before assaulting the police. That would have offered the potential of somewhat self-incriminating evidence.

It's a mystery what happened to Sheik-Qasim's phone. It never materialized, which seems slightly suspicious.

"It saved my life, or at least a lot of headaches," 32-year-old Sheik-Qasim told the Star of his Google account. "I would have probably been in jail right now."

The matter is currently under investigation by the police department's Professional Services section, said Victor Paul Kwong, media relations officer for the Toronto police, in an emailed statement Monday.