On the evening of March 26, 2004, Orlando Bowen sat in a Mississauga parking lot awaiting some friends. Bowen, a CFL player with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, had just signed an extension on his one-year contract with the team and he was ready to celebrate.
But Bowen never made it to the celebrations. He was confronted by two men asking if he had drugs. When he brushed off the two men, they identified themselves as officers for Peel Regional Police and claimed he had a bag of cocaine in his possession.
Bowen was arrested and photos taken after the incident show a slew of head injuries and a swollen face. It all proved fatal to his CFL career, which ended that night.
Bowen was charged with assault, resisting arrest, and possession of cocaine — that is until all charges were dismissed by an Ontario court judge.
On top of it all, Bowen had even been a volunteer with Peel Police, working with officers on dealing with visible minorities in the community.
During the trial, in which Bowen was facing drug possession and assault charges, one of the arresting officers, Sheldon Cook, was arrested in a sting by the RCMP for stealing what he thought was cocaine.
The Crown’s case lost credibility with Cook’s arrest, and combined wit the compelling evidence presented by the defense, the judge deemed the testimony of both officers unacceptable and acquitted Bowen.
A free man, Bowen then spent years on a journey of healing and forgiveness. In 2014 he sent the two officers a letter expressing his forgiveness for everything that happened.
“It has made me a better father; husband, brother, son and a better human being. Someone who can fully understand what it means to feel alone, broken and to feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. More importantly, someone who truly values the incomparable significance of precious time spent with loved ones, time meeting new family members and time spent trying to make a difference in the lives of others and in this world by loving people unconditionally.”
Read the full letter here.
While Cook was eventually charged with a slew of things and was sentenced to 5 years in prison, Grant Gervais, the other officer, remains on the force as a sergeant.
Even though the courts acquitted Bowen, Peel police still maintains the arrest was legitimate.
10 years later, Bowen, now a Brampton native, has moved on. He took the injustice and channeled it into giving back. He now runs a non-profit called One Voice, One Team, which focuses on giving youth opportunities to learn leadership skills through a variety of programs.
Bowen’s full story was recently featured on CTV’s W5. Watch the full episode below, which covers Bowen’s story, the time during the trial and a shocking interview with Peel Police about the incident. You can also learn more here.
Feature Image – CTV