'A very traumatizing episode': Camara provides first-hand account of wrongful arrest
MONTREAL -- Mamadi Fara Camara appeared on Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde en parle Sunday to give new details his wrongful arrest on charges of attempted murder of a police officer.
“It was a very traumatizing episode,” said Camara, joined on the show by his lawyer, Virginie Dufresne-Lemire and documentary filmmaker Will Prosper.
On Jan. 28, the 31-year-old Black PhD student was pulled over in Montreal’s Park Extension neighbourhood for allegedly using his cell phone while driving, according to testimony during the show.
According to Dufresne-Lemire, officer Sanjay Vig was attacked by an unknown assailant, who then fled the scene.
Dufresne-Lemire said Camara witnessed the incident and called 911. Camara says he never left his vehicle.
The lawyer said he spoke with another officer after the incident and drove home to find his street had been closed off. He parked nearby and officers approached his vehicle to arrest him, she said.
She says police grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him out through the window of his car before bringing him to the ground.
“An officer placed his foot on the head of Mr. Camara to immobilize him,” claimed Dufresne-Lemire. “It was a brief moment, but a very traumatizing one.”
Dufresne-Lemire told CTV News Montreal Camara's behaviour was that of a model citizen.
"He stayed on the scene. He stayed in his car, he called for help, he called 911. He stayed until the police officer arrived, then he left when he was told he could do so. And he did not resist his arrest. So you know, that's exactly how you want someone to behave in a case like this: to stay calm, to call for help, and to stay at the scene. So yes, of course he did what exactly what he should have done."
Camara was placed in detention for six days before appearing in court.
Dufresne-Lemire referred to officers' behaviour in the case as 'tunnel vision'
"All the other officers, they were convinced already that it was him, so did not try to look at other possibilities. They just searched Mr. Camera's home," she said. "They put aside everything that did not go toward that theory. So that's the tunnel vision."
The charges were stayed after evidence emerged that the wrong person had been arrested and Montreal's police chief has since apologized.
'LIKE A MONSTER': CAMARA RECOUNTS DAYS IN DETENTION
Camara claims he never got to speak to his family during the six days he was held in the Riviere des Praries detention centre – a time he called “very difficult.”
“When I arrived, … all the guards were there. It’s like, ‘it’s the cop killer’,” he said on Sunday.
He says he felt the guards saw him as“ a monster.”
“[Since] the day of my arrest, I never stopped claiming my innocence.”
A spokesperson for the Quebec Crown prosecutors' office earlier confirmed to CTV News that Camara's charges are not just stayed but now officially dropped.
"In light of the information provided by the SPVM, the [Crown] confirms that it does not intend to resume the proceedings with regard to Mr. Camara," said Audrey Roy-Cloutier.
"Mr. Camara's case is definitively closed."
An inquiry into the incident has been called by Quebec Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault. Montreal police say they will not comment on the incident "out of respect for the investigation."
"We wish to reiterate that the SPVM offers its full cooperation to the investigation and will demonstrate transparency throughout the process," a statement read.
'WOULD A PERSON IN WESTMOUNT RECEIVE THE SAME KIND OF TREATMENT?': PROSPER
“The racial question arises and it’s certain that it played a role in the evolution of this case,” said Dufresne-Lemire.
“It’s clear that we have someone who was in his car as a witness to an incident with a police officer,” said filmmaker Will Prosper, who joined Camara and his lawyer on the Sunday night show.
“Would a person in Westmount receive the same kind of treatment?”
Earlier in February, demonstrators gathered outside the Montreal police headquarters to protest the arrest, which many called racially motivated.
At the time, protester Cassandra Williams told CTV News police need to be held accountable for their actions. The mother of two Black boys said she worries what would happen if her older son, a teenager, is confronted by a police officer.
"Hold them accountable like children, you do something wrong, you're going to get punished," Williams said. "Hold the police accountable, hold their bosses accountable."
-- With files from CTV News Reporter Iman Kassam