A Montreal man has been exonerated of all charges related to the attempted murder of a police officer on Jan. 28, police officials announced Friday.
Police chief Sylvain Caron offered a public apology to Mamadi III Fara Camara for his ordeal, which included being arrested in his home, charged with serious crimes and spending six nights in jail.
Caron said he will meet with Camara to also apologize to him in person for the mistaken arrest.
"He has nothing to be ashamed of," the police chief said.
Caron said DNA tests on evidence recovered at the scene of the attack made it possible to objectively exonerate Camara.
Caron's announcement was brief and he refused to answer reporters' questions. Instead, he said an information session will be held for the public and the media to explain the police investigation process. He did not say when that session would be held.
Shortly after the chief's briefing, the Crown announced it would drop its case against Camara in light of the new information.
"Mr. Camara's case is definitely over," Audrey Roy-Cloutier, a spokesperson for the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP), wrote on Twitter.
The 31-year-old PhD student had been accused of disarming and injuring Const. Sanjay Vig of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) during a routine traffic stop in the city's Parc-Extension neighbourhood.
Caron said Vig was attacked seconds after issuing a ticket, but forensic testing on items collected by the SPVM's major crimes unit confirmed Camara was not the attacker.
Camara has maintained his innocence since his arrest, but was detained until his abrupt release Wednesday. That's when Camara was scheduled for a bail hearing, but the Crown stayed his charges based on new evidence.
Camara's family and friends cheered at the Montreal courthouse when his handcuffs were removed and he was allowed to exit the building with his wife, who is pregnant with twins.
Now that Camara has been formally cleared, he and his family are relieved, but they are still suffering, said his lawyer Virginie Dufresne-Lemire.
"He's happy, but it doesn't erase everything he has been through," she said.
Dufresne-Lemire specializes in civil litigation. Specifically, her law firm focuses on abuse of authority, such as wrongful arrests and police brutality.
She said her client is considering various options, such as a lawsuit, but has not made a decision yet.
"He needs a little time to reflect on everything that happened," she said. "He knows his options."
Dufresne-Lemire said Camara was a witness to the attack and called 911 to alert authorities. Shortly afterward he was arrested and forced to stay behind bars for nearly a week.
"It was very traumatizing for everyone. Not only him, but all of his family," she said.
Niece says arrest was violent
Camara's niece, Manty Keita, says her uncle was traumatized by the arrest. In a live Instagram interview with Montreal comedian Renzel Dashington, Keita said he was pulled over for using his phone while driving, and then the officer was attacked.
"He said a man attacked the officer and took his gun. The man, the real criminal, shot at police," she told Dashington, who strongly criticized police for how they handled the situation.
"He said a man attacked the officer and took his gun. The man, the real criminal, shot at police," she said.
She said Camara called police and then waited for them to arrive. After providing a statement, he was allowed to go home, she said.
Then a few hours later, police showed up at her uncle's home and threw him to the ground to be handcuffed, she said. One officer put a boot on her uncle's face, she said, and he was injured.
Camara's home was then torn apart as officers searched for the missing service weapon.
Keita said her uncle now acts strong on the outside, but he is hiding his true feelings.
"He is such a nice person that he doesn't dramatize things. He says 'Oh, it's OK,'" she said. "I know he is traumatized. It's traumatizing."
The incident has drawn sharp criticism from advocacy groups and politicians on the municipal, provincial and even federal levels.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday morning the arrest and detainment is a "troubling case" and that "there needs to be full light shone on exactly what happened there."
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante welcomed the SPVM's apology, and extended her own to Camara.
"Let's redouble our efforts to find the culprit(s) in the attack on an SPVM agent and shed light on what happened," she said on Twitter.
The investigation is ongoing as the assailant is still at large.
Montreal police said a stolen, red Hyundai Elantra connected to the attack was found in the borough of LaSalle, and they have set up a command post there while continuing their investigation.
The charges against Camara included attempted murder, aggravated assault against a police officer, disarming a police officer and discharging a prohibited firearm.