Montreal police (SPVM) director Sylvain Caron held a press conference late Friday afternoon, in which he declared Mamadi III Fara Camara innocent in connection with the attempted murder of a police officer last month.
“I want Montrealers to know that he has nothing to be ashamed of,” Caron, told reporters.
The declaration comes less than 24 hours after the SPVM said it was too early to clear Camara.
According to Caron, it was only after receiving DNA lab results on Friday that police were able to exonerate him.
Those results have been communicated to Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions.
Camara was arrested Jan. 28, after a police officer was allegedly disarmed and attacked following a traffic stop in Montreal’s Parc-Extension borough.
He spent almost a week in detention when prosecutors on Wednesday dropped all the charges against him after they said evidence had surfaced absolving him.
Caron said he has agreed to meet with Camara “to offer our most sincere apologies to his family and to him, for all the inconveniences related to the unfortunate events of the last days.”
Caron said that it will “for the sake of openness” hold a session for the public and the media to explain the criminal investigation process in such a case.
The police chief refused to answer journalists’ questions.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante took to social media Friday evening.
In a statement on Twitter, the mayor said she welcomed the SPVM’s declaration and apology and also extended her own apology to Camara and his family.
“Let us redouble our efforts to find the culprit (s) for the attack on an SPVM agent and shed light on what happened,” she wrote.
The case has drawn some criticism.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” about the Camara’s arrest.
Trudeau described the case as “troubling” and said he has confidence Quebec authorities will do what is needed to figure out what happened.
“I know the responsible authorities are very aware of the pressure that will be on them to figure out exactly what went wrong and to fully answer the questions of friends and family and citizens who are extremely worried about this troubling incident,” he told reporters Friday.
Friday morning, Montreal police said the investigation into the assault is continuing and that they’ve found a vehicle they said they believe was driven by a suspect in the case.
Const. Caroline Chèvrefils said the red Hyundai Elantra was found in the city’s southwestern LaSalle borough and that detectives were interviewing witnesses in the area and checking if neighbourhood cameras captured images of the car or its driver.
The investigation is still active and the officer’s weapon has not yet been found.
In a statement issued Friday morning, the office of the director of prosecutions said that prosecutors “in principle” are required to have a complete case before charges are laid. But, it added, it’s “not exceptional” for charges to be laid early in the interest of public safety.
Audrey Roy-Cloutier, spokeswoman for the director of prosecutions, wrote that police arrested Camara based on information provided by the officer who was attacked and from circumstantial evidence. She said the charges were filed at the request of police.
Roy-Cloutier said prosecutors received new evidence Feb. 3 and that after reviewing it, came to the conclusion it was no longer possible to support the charges against Camara.
Politicians and civil rights groups on Thursday demanded an independent investigation to determine how Camara ended up in jail for almost a week before the charges were dropped.
Plante on Thursday denounced the detention of Camara — who is Black — as “unacceptable” and said any eventual independent investigation should examine whether racial profiling played a part.
Yves Francoeur, head of the Montreal police brotherhood, accused the mayor of “political interference” in the ongoing police investigation. In a letter to Plante Friday, the union head said her decision to discuss racial profiling in connection with the case was “extremely deplorable.”
“In doing so, you throw oil on the fire, undermine the social climate and complicate even more the task of those responsible for ensuring the safety of Montrealers,” Francoeur wrote.
A community organization in Parc-Extension organized a protest Friday afternoon in solidarity with Camara to highlight concerns about racial profiling in the neighbourhood.
Protesters condemned the arrest and called for an end to systemic racism, with many saying they didn’t believe Camara would have been arrested if he were white.
Cassandra Williams, one of the protesters, said 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 Global News’ Annabelle Olivier and Gloria Henriquez