Montreal

Man sues Montreal police officer for $120K over alleged 'road rage' incident

Jeffery Pokora, a man who says he was attacked by an off-duty Montreal police officer in January 2015, is now suing the officer for $120,000.

Lawsuit accuses off-duty police officer of 'reprehensible, unprovoked, shocking' assault

Jeffery Pokora has filed an $120,000 lawsuit against Montreal police officer Roberto Tomarelli over an alleged 'road rage' incident. (CBC)

Jeffery Pokora, a man who says he was attacked by an off-duty Montreal police officer in January 2015, is now suing that officer for $120,000.

Surveillance video of the incident made public in November 2015 shows officer Roberto Tomarelli's vehicle ramming Pokora's car several times.

Pokora says he felt he had no choice but to file the lawsuit after Crown prosecutors refused to lay charges against Tomarelli, and a complaint to the police ethics commission was rejected.

Pokora himself is facing charges of harassment and intimidation over the incident. His lawsuit alleges those charges are "false" and "absurd," and that he's the victim of a "reprehensible, unprovoked and shocking" assault.

He's being represented by constitutional lawyer Julius Grey's firm.

Feared for his life

Pokora's motion for damages filed in court this month lays out his version of events.

The court documents say Pokora witnessed an SUV driving erratically and speeding the night of Jan. 14, 2015. 

Concerned, Pokora followed the SUV, driven by Tomarelli, to a residence in LaSalle. Pokora says he was unaware at the time that Tomarelli was an off-duty police officer.

Pokora confronted Tomarelli and the two had words, according to the documents. Pokora went back to his vehicle and called 911. So did Tomarelli.

Worried that Tomarelli might try to flee, Pokora blocked the SUV in the driveway of the residence with his car, the documents say. That's when Tomarelli got into his vehicle, reversed and rammed Pokora's car at least twice, as seen on the surveillance video.

Pokora says he then fled in his car, fearing for his life, and Tomarelli pursued him in the SUV until the two were finally stopped by police.

"At the plaintiff's surprise, when the police arrived, they asked the plaintiff to lie down on the street and handcuffed him instead of the defendant; it was only at this point that defendant showed his badge and identified himself as a policeman to the plaintiff," the lawsuit reads.

Pokora is seeking $120,000 in damages. His allegations have not been tested in court.

'Serious psychological distress'

The lawsuit claims Pokora's vehicle was damaged beyond repair in the incident, and that since it happened he is in frequent pain and experiences serious psychological distress. 

In addition to the surveillance video, the lawsuit has introduced the 911 calls made by Pokora and Tomarelli that night as evidence.

When the surveillance video was initially released, Montreal police said it didn't tell the whole story.

Pokora filed a complaint with police after the incident, but prosecutors said they decided not to lay charges "after a complete analysis of all the evidence."

Pokora also filed a complaint against Tomarelli with the police ethics commission, but it refused to proceed, saying because Tomarelli was off-duty at the time of the incident, it didn't have jurisdiction.

Pokora told CBC his lawyers will refile the complaint with the ethics commission, given that the original complaint didn't include the 911 calls as evidence.

Pokora said he will also ask Quebec's independent investigations bureau, the body that looks into incidents involving police where people are injured or killed, to look into his case. The bureau didn't exist at the time of the incident.

Officer suspended over another incident with vehicle

Tomarelli was suspended for 10 days in 2016 after a ruling by the police ethics commission regarding another incident in 2012.

In that case, Tomarelli was found to have '"failed to use his patrol vehicle with prudence and discernment" when he struck a suspect who was fleeing on a bicycle.

Pokora is due back in court in May to face his criminal charges.

Both the Montreal police and the Montreal Police Brotherhood told CBC they had no comment on the lawsuit.

Tomarelli couldn't be reached for comment.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Jeffery Pokora is suing Roberto Tomarelli for $85,000. In fact, the total amount of damages is $120,000. Pokora's lawyer said the amount of damages were modified when court documents were filed. The new amount includes legal fees, as well.
    Mar 01, 2017 1:37 PM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Rukavina

Journalist

Steve Rukavina has been with CBC News in Montreal since 2002. In 2019, he won a RTDNA award for continuing coverage of sexual misconduct allegations at Concordia University. He's also a co-creator of the podcast, Montreapolis. Before working in Montreal he worked as a reporter for CBC in Regina and Saskatoon. You can reach him at stephen.j.rukavina@cbc.ca.

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