Demands for inquiry grow after man accused of attempted murder of Montreal police officer has charges stayed

The abrupt stay of attempted murder and other charges against doctoral student Mamadi III Fara Camara Wednesday has prompted calls for an investigation by his lawyer, Quebec’s opposition parties, Montreal officials and advocacy groups.

Camara, 31, had been accused of disarming and injuring a Montreal police officer with Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) during a routine traffic stop in Park Extension on Jan. 28, and spent six nights in detention before his sudden release Wednesday afternoon.

He had claimed innocence from the moment of his arrest, his lawyers said.

Now, questions are emerging about the circumstances of Camara’s arrest, the length of his detention and the impact of the incident on his career and personal life.

In a statement issued late Thursday morning, the SPVM cited the “exceptional complexity” of the Jan. 28 event, and said evidence uncovered by investigators allowed them to conclude only yesterday that charges against Camara could not be supported.

On Thursday morning, all the opposition parties at Quebec’s National Assembly demanded an independent inquiry into Camara’s ordeal.

In a statement Wednesday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante called for “clear answers about what happened in order to preserve public confidence in police work.”

Opposition wants independent investigation

Lionel Perez, Montreal’s opposition party leader, went further, calling for an independent investigation “to find out exactly what happened with the SPVM, what kind of report was filed, what kind of evidence was submitted, who signed the affidavit to get a clear picture.”

Perez said Camara had suffered days in prison and “has been suspended, perhaps lost his job, his name has been dragged in the mud, his picture has been put online and in a report.”

Fo Niemi, who heads the anti-racism advocacy group Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, said an investigation needed to be conducted by an entity other than the Montreal police.

“This is very disturbing for a man of African descent and I think there are questions that must be answered not by the Montreal police, [but] by some independent authority either from the municipal or the provincial,” he said. “We strongly urge this man to take legal action and file complaints.”

Police are seen in Montreal’s north end on Jan. 28, 2021, after an officer was injured. In a statement Thursday, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal cited the “exceptional complexity” of the event, and said evidence allowed them to conclude that charges against Camara could not be supported.(Mathieu Wagner/Radio-Canada)

‘Very big problem’ with identification of suspect

Joanie Chainey, one of Camara’s defence lawyers, said her client’s treatment was “very concerning” and that the investigation and arrest both seemed to have happened too quickly.

“It was problematic in the way this file was treated,” Chainey said. “In our opinion, when we looked at the file, there was a very big problem with the identification of the suspect.”

Camara’s bail hearing had originally been scheduled for Wednesday morning, Chainey said, but was moved to the afternoon because new evidence had emerged.

At that point, the Crown announced that in light of new information, it would not pursue charges against Camara for now.

Among the evidence was witness testimony and Quebec Transport Ministry video from the area where the incident took place.

The SPVM statement said the video evidence did not in itself absolve Camara of the crime.

Le <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SPVM?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SPVM</a> tient à faire la lumière sur la complexité exceptionnelle de l’enquête entourant la tentative de meurtre survenue à l’endroit d’un policier le 28 janvier dernier, dans l’arrondissement de Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension.<br><br>En savoir + : <a href=”https://t.co/jrQ32qbqwr”>https://t.co/jrQ32qbqwr</a> <a href=”https://t.co/e4PJEFUYh1″>pic.twitter.com/e4PJEFUYh1</a>

&mdash;@SPVM

“Currently, the combination of all the evidence allows us to consider the presence of an additional person at the scene of the incident on the night of the crime,” the statement said.

Chainey said her client, who had no prior arrests, was very relieved but likely still in shock.

“The evidence showed he didn’t do anything, and then he was detained for many days,” she said.

Campus officials to meet with Camara

Camara, an engineer by training, oversees a laboratory at Polytechnique Montréal.

His duties there were suspended during the criminal proceedings, and he was barred from campus.

M. Camara sera rencontré pour discuter de sa réintégration sur le campus et dans ses fonctions. Un soutien lui sera offert.<br><br>Nous tenons à préciser que M. Camara avait été suspendu de ses fonctions le temps de l’enquête, et non mis à pied. (2/2)

&mdash;@polymtl

On Wednesday, following the stay of charges, a Polytechnique spokesperson said officials will meet with Camara to discuss his reinstatement on campus and the resumption of his duties.

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