Family of Jermaine Carby sues Peel police for $12M, protests at police station with Black Lives Matter

Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto protested at a Peel police station in Brampton on Wednesday to show support for the family of Jermaine Carby, a man shot and killed by local police during a traffic stop in September of 2014. The family was also at 21 Division at the time to serve Peel police with a $12 million civil lawsuit.

Lawsuit accuses police of racial profiling, says Carby had mental illness and officer ignored information

Members of Jermaine Carby's family and Black Lives Matter members stage protest at Peel Police Headquarters. 0:33

Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto protested at a Peel police station in Brampton on Wednesday to show support for the family of Jermaine Carby, a man shot and killed by local police during a traffic stop in September of 2014.

The family was also at 21 Division at the time to serve Peel police with a $12 million civil lawsuit.

Carby's cousin, La Tanya Grant, entered the station along with supporters and took the opportunity to speak to the police directly.

"You're the worst police division in Ontario," Grant said. "You guys are racist. You guys murdered my cousin in the streets like a damn animal."

Carby's mother, Lorna Robinson, was also there, and says that the two years since she lost her son have been "hell" and that it has left a hole in her heart.

"We want justice and we deserve to get compensation after all of what we have been through, and after all of what they did to my son — murdered him cold-blooded — and he didn't do anything," Robinson said.

'Motivated by racial prejudice and stereotypes' 

Carby's family alleges in the suit that he was a victim of racial profiling, saying Constable Jason Senechal wanted to pursue an unwarranted criminal investigation against him when Carby was travelling in Brampton as a passenger in a Volkswagen Jetta. It was Senechal's fellow officer, Constable Ryan Reid, who shot and killed Carby.

"Senechal racially profiled Mr. Carby and concluded, without any lawful basis, that he was involved in criminal activity," the lawsuit reads. "Senechal was motivated by racial prejudice and stereotypes."

Jermaine Carby's mother, Lorna Robinson, says the two years since she lost her son have been 'hell.' (CBC)

None of the allegations in the lawsuit has been proved in court. 

When the confrontation between police and Carby escalated, an eyewitness recalled that Carby was walking towards the officers with his arms open when he was shot. Amateur video of the incident displayed during a coroner's inquest had police officers telling him to "drop the knife," although at least one witness said he didn't see a knife at the time.

The lawsuit says Carby, who was 33 at the time of his death, was "a person who suffered from [a] serious and debilitating mental illness" and alleges the officer knew he had a mental illness, had previously attempted suicide and wanted police to shoot him, but deliberately ignored the information.

'Uphill battle'

Getting any money from the suit may be difficult, Toronto lawyer Barry Swadron says, calling what the family faces "an uphill battle." 

"In this case, you're suing Peel region and all they have to do is to raise your taxes to have enough money to defend the police," Swadron said. "It's a very, very expensive procedure to sue the police. Very, very few people have the resources to fight the police."

The Peel police has come under fire in the past for the controversial practice of carding, and a CBC News survey found that, in relation to the diverse population it serves, it is one of the least reflective in Canada.

Toronto lawyer Barry Swadron says it is expensive to sue the police. (CBC)

Officer wouldn't have done anything differently 

The province's Special Investigations Unit cleared Ryan Reid, the officer who shot and killed Carby, and he told the inquest into the shooting earlier this year that he wouldn't have done anything differently.

Prior to Reid's testimony, police said that the confrontation between the officers and Reid escalated when he was asked for his name and ID. When they found warrants for his arrest in British Columbia. Reid explained, that's when Carby pulled out a knife and said "Shoot me, shoot me."

"The last thing I wanted to do was kill Mr. Carby," the officer said. "I wanted to stop the threat."

The family of Jermaine Carby, who was shot dead by police in September of 2014, is suing Peel police for $12 million dollars, alleging Carby was a victim of racial profiling. (Courtesy of La Tanya Grant)

The director of the SIU told the inquest a knife wasn't found at the scene, but was delivered hours later to the civilian agency investigating the shooting by a police sergeant.

The inquest deemed Carby's death a homicide, and a jury made 14 recommendations, focusing on finding methods of de-escalation and avoiding "unconscious bias" during traffic stops.

"From day one, I knew something was wrong, and I did my own independent investigation alongside the SIU and found a lot of discrepancies," Grant said. "The truth came out at the coroner's inquest, and that's why we decided to pursue this civil lawsuit."  

However, a verdict of homicide at an inquest is not the same as in a criminal proceeding. Inquest jurors issue the ruling when they determine someone is responsible for a death, but they are not allowed to say who bears that responsibility. 

CBC News contacted Peel police, and was told that because this is a civil case, that they wouldn't comment.

With files from CBC News and Jonathan Rumley