MONTREAL — A Black Montreal man who was wrongfully arrested in January and jailed for six days for the attempted murder of a police officer is suing the City of Montreal and Crown prosecutors, seeking $1.2 million in damages.
Lawyers representing Mamadi III Fara Camara filed the lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of the 31-year-old man at the Montreal courthouse.
Camara and his family are seeking damages from the city, police and prosecutors. Among the people named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are his wife, other family members and a neighbour who is a close family friend.
They are claiming Camara was the victim of many injustices including racial profiling, illegal arrest and detention, abusive force by police and two strip searches.
Camara spent six days in detention after Montreal Const. Sanjay Vig was allegedly disarmed and attacked with his own service weapon on Jan. 28. Throughout his detention, Camara proclaimed his innocence, and he was released on Feb. 3 after video from the Transport Department exonerated him.
Soon after his release, DNA evidence cleared Camara conclusively, and Montreal's police chief apologized publicly on Feb. 5. Chief Sylvain Caron also visited Camara's home and apologized to him personally a few days after that.
In late March, investigators arrested another person in connection with the case. Ali Ngarukiye was charged with seven counts including attempted murder, aggravated assault against a police officer, disarming a police officer, discharging a firearm and two counts of vehicle theft.
In the lawsuit, Camara alleges that Vig, the officer who was attacked, engaged in racial profiling and made false statements that led Camara to be identified as the suspect. He also alleges police used excessive force, pulling him through the driver's side window of his car and placing a boot on his head to immobilize him. The suit alleges his detention conditions were cruel and unusual, and officers failed to treat him with respect.
It also alleges that police sat on the evidence that eventually exonerated Camara for six days — the entire time he was detained. Meanwhile, it continues, police released information to the media "in order to damage Mr. Camara's reputation" and turn public opinion against him.
"Many elements did not point to Mr. Camara; they are based on stereotypes and prejudices to justify the arrest and detention of Mr. Camara," the filing reads. "Indeed, police insisted on accusing and detaining him for the sole reason that the police officer (Vig) identified him and that he is Black."
The filing alleges the provincial prosecutor's office relied entirely on the police in filing its charges without independently assessing the evidence. "The misconduct attributable to the prosecutor caused Mr. Camara and his relatives irreparable damage," the lawsuit says.
Lawyer Justin Wee said in an interview that his client was a victim of racial profiling. "Mr. Camara wants justice for what he had to endure — the arrest, the accusation for attempted murder on a police officer, the bungled investigation," Wee said. "All these events wouldn’t have taken place if Mr. Camara wasn’t Black."
Geneviève Jutras, a spokeswoman for Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, said the city is awaiting the completion of an independent investigation commissioned by the province before commenting further on Camara's case. The report by Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne is expected by the end of August.
"What is clear is that Mr. Camara's legal action in no way changes our desire to collaborate with him," Jutras said in an emailed statement, adding that city lawyers will study the lawsuit and provide recommendations.
Audrey Roy-Cloutier, a spokeswoman for the prosecution service, acknowledged the filing of the lawsuit but said she could not comment because the case is before the courts.
Camara is claiming $790,000 in damages. Family members, including his wife who was pregnant at the time and gave birth to twins in May, are also suing for various amounts due to stress and anguish caused by the situation, which included a search of the couple's home.
Camara declined requests for comment on Wednesday, leaving it to his lawyers to speak.
“We hope that this lawsuit will expose the fact racial profiling exists within the Montreal police. This needs to stop, and it’s only through legal actions that we can raise awareness," Wee said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2021.
— With files from Virginie Ann in Montreal.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press