Camara looks to sue Montreal police for wrongful arrest and 6-night detainment
Witness says he told police another man fled the scene, ducked down nearby alley
Mamadi III Fara Camara was "extremely scared" during the six nights he spent in detention for a crime he didn't commit, according to his defence lawyer.
"He didn't know what was going to happen," said Cédric Materne, speaking on Radio-Canada's Tout le monde en parle Sunday.
Camara has since received an apology from Sylvain Caron, Montreal's police chief, for what he went through after being arrested for the alleged disarming, assault and attempted murder of a police officer.
The 31-year-old Camara has accepted that apology, but Materne is among those who say more must be done. Camara was never offered the fundamental right of being presumed innocent until proven guilty, he said.
Materne agrees with Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who has called for an independent investigation into the arrest and detention of an innocent man.
However, Plante is not putting the blame on Caron. She said she still has faith in the police chief's ability to do his job.
Meanwhile, the investigation into who attacked Const. Sanjay Vig in the late afternoon of Jan. 28 is ongoing, the assailant is still at large.
Vig was attacked after he pulled Camara, a PhD student, over for using a cell phone while driving.
The traffic stop and subsequent attack were captured by a traffic camera that overlooks Highway 40 in Montreal's Parc-Extension neighbourhood. An eyewitness has also come forward to share his own version of events. It appears to further vindicate Camara, who was eventually cleared of all charges by DNA evidence.
Witness says he saw man flee scene
Juan Angel Flores had just left his residence and was walking on Bloomfield Avenue, not far from Crémazie Boulevard, when he saw Vig fall to the ground.
"I saw a man walking on the sidewalk, not very fast," Flores said, describing that man as young, Black and wearing a toque. "He looked at me, I looked at him. We looked at each other, face to face, and then he walked down the alley."
Flores called 911. Camara also called 911 shortly after the attack, his lawyer has said.
Approaching the injured policeman, Flores saw a man parked in a grey car. The man didn't get out of his car, and stayed at the scene, Flores told Radio-Canada.
Flores said after images of Camara ended up in the media, he could see Camara was taller than the man he saw ducking down the alley. Flores said he told police everything he saw that night.
Still, Camara was arrested in his home a few hours later. Though he has yet to speak to the media, his niece has said the arrest was violent and her uncle's home was ransacked by officers looking for Vig's service weapon, among other evidence. A neighbour has said investigators pressed him at length about the missing gun.
Camara, whose wife is expecting twins, was processed and charged with crimes that could well have ended his academic career.
He has a master's in telecommunications and came to Quebec to study and work. Just being charged earned him a temporary ban from Polytechnique Montréal's campus. The school has since said officials wish to meet with Camara to discuss his reinstatement and the resumption of his teaching duties.
Lawsuit won't bring millions
And now Camara has retained a lawyer who specializes in civil litigation. Virginie Dufresne-Lemire's firm takes on cases of police brutality and wrongful arrest.
During a Monday interview on Radio-Canada's Tout un matin, she said the first step will be to determine if there's a case to be brought against the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).
She said the SPVM and the City of Montreal, which funds and oversees the service, will likely be the target rather than the Crown.
To bring a case against the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP), she said, would require establishing malicious intent.
If there are grounds for a lawsuit against the SPVM, Camara may seek substantial monetary compensation. But it will likely range in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Lemire said lawsuits of that type in Quebec don't result in multi-million-dollar jackpots the way they might in the United States.
Camara may be compensated for the various injustices he suffered on an individual basis, she explained. For example, she said, he might get about $5,000 per night in detention.
But even moving forward with litigation hinges on what her law firm uncovers as it goes over the entire case, from start to finish. That will include poring over all the evidence police presented to the Crown to see if there is evidence of negligence.
"If the police had enough information and their identification of Mr. Camara was correct, it is more difficult to seek damage, but if we are able to demonstrate that the identification and the laying of charges were not justified by the evidence, there we can go and seek damages," she said.
There is still plenty of study to do, she said, while her client struggles with what he went through
"He is still very upset," Dufresne-Lemire said. "It was an excessively traumatizing experience."
Camara isn't the only one upset. Around 200 people gathered near Montreal Police headquarters on Sunday afternoon to protest racial profiling and police brutality.
The SPVM's top brass have said Camara's arrest was a matter of evidence, not race, but many protestors also cited a recent story of a Black lawyer who was handcuffed in front of his daughter during a traffic stop.
"What happened this week just confirms that you can be a doctor or a lawyer or a professor — it doesn't matter," said Marlihan Lopez, a member of Black Lives Matter Montreal and co-founder of the Defund the Police Coalition.
"Our skin is constantly weaponized."
With files from Radio-Canada