A man who was wrongfully arrested, charged and detained for six days before he was released in connection with the alleged assault of a Montreal police officer says the entire ordeal has been “extremely difficult.”
Mamadi Fara Camara spoke publicly for the first time about the incident on Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde en parle talk show late Sunday, saying he’s traumatized by the series of events.
On Jan. 28, the doctoral student was arrested after a police officer was allegedly attacked and disarmed during a traffic stop in the city’s Parc-Extension neighbourhood. At the time, the department said a police officer had been shot before later withdrawing the claim.
After holding him in detention for nearly a week, Crown prosecutors dropped all charges against Camara — including attempted murder — citing evidence that absolved him.
The incident has prompted the Quebec government to launch an independent investigation into what happened. Montreal police chief Sylvain Caron has also apologized to Camara and his family while the investigation to find the suspect is still ongoing. No other arrests have been made.
In his interview, Camara said Sunday night that he was stopped for allegedly using his phone behind the wheel the same afternoon.
“I never got out of my vehicle,” Camara said.
Virginie Dufresne-Lemire, his lawyer, explained for legal reasons that her client cannot provide more details about what unfolded that day.
She says Camara had seen the assault on the police officer while he remained in his vehicle and that he had called 911. A police officer quickly arrived at the scene and reportedly told Camara that he could leave after speaking briefly to him, according to Dufresne-Lemire.
Dufresne-Lemire says Camara then arrived on the street where he lives and was arrested by police officers after the police officer who was reportedly injured claimed he believed the last person he saw attacked him.
His lawyer says police officers pointed their weapons at Camara and then pulled him out of the car by the window. Dufresne-Lemire said an officer placed his foot on Camara’s head and that his apartment was searched.
Camara was then interrogated for more than four hours by investigators and following his arrest, Dufresne-Lemire said an officer spoke to him and concluded in a written report that he was a witness.
He was then held in detention for six days in Rivière-des-Prairies, according to Dufresne-Lemire.
“It was extremely difficult,” Camara said. “When I arrived, I felt that all the guards were thinking ‘this is the cop killer.'”
“People saw me as a monster.”
During his time in detention, Camara says he wasn’t allowed to contact his family, including his wife who is expecting twins. There was relief for both him and his loved ones when he was finally released after nearly a week.
“It was a great relief but I expected it because, since the day of my arrest, I have never stopped proclaiming my innocence,” he said, adding that if he had been listened to fully then it would not have taken so long for his release.
Camara, a graduate student who oversees a lab at Polytechnique Montreal, says he was welcomed back to campus but said the trauma has so far prevented him from working.
His lawyer says a potential civil suit is in the works, but could not provide more information.
In a statement issued Monday, Montreal police said it would not be commenting on the interview out of respect for the independent investigation announced by the government.
“However, we would like to remind you that the SPVM is offering its full co-operation to the investigation and will be transparent throughout the process,” the police force said.
The investigation spearheaded by Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne is slated to begin Feb. 22.
— With files from the Canadian Press