Montreal PhD student freed after being ‘mistakenly’ suspected in officer’s attempted murder

Charges have abruptly been stayed against the man accused of trying to kill a Montreal police officer last week.

Mamadi III Fara Camara, 31, appeared in court Wednesday for what was supposed to be a bail hearing.

Instead, the Crown announced that in light of new information, it would not pursue charges against him for now.

Camara was released immediately, much to the relief of dozens of family members who gathered at the courthouse. He had been detained since last Thursday.

Among the relatives was Camara’s wife, who is pregnant with twins. The group cheered when police removed his handcuffs.

Camara had been accused of disarming and injuring a Montreal police officer during a routine traffic stop in Park Extension.

He also faced charges of aggravated assault against a police officer and discharging a prohibited firearm.

However, the prosecution stayed proceedings after new evidence surfaced, according to Audrey Roy-Cloutier, a spokesperson for the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP).

“We believe that it is no longer possible to support, in the current state of affairs, the accusations against Mr. Camara,” she said in a tweet Wednesday.

She said the DPCP will not comment further at this time.

Camara’s lawyer, Cédric Materne, said identifying the suspect “is a major problem in this file” and this was a case of mistaken identity. He said Camara has claimed his innocence since the day of his arrest.

Camara has no criminal history, Materne explained, so being detained since his Thursday arrest  “clearly was a lot of stress for him. I believe he is very relieved and his family members also.”

A doctoral student with no criminal past

Radio-Canada reports that when he was arrested a few hours after the incident, Camara told officers that he was not the person they wanted but that he witnessed the assault.

His lawyer had been attempting to obtain his release since the arrest.

Camara, an engineer by training, oversees a laboratory at École polytechnique de Montréal. His duties there were suspended during the criminal proceedings and he was barred from campus.

After Wednesday’s decision was announced a spokesperson for the school, Annie Touchette, said Polytechnique officials will meet with Camara to discuss his reinstatement on campus and the resumption of his duties.

“Polytechnique Montreal community is relieved for him and his loved ones,” she said in an email. “Support will be offered to him.”

Camara came to Canada as a foreign student four years ago after working for Huawei Technology from 2015 to 2017. 

He holds a master’s degree in telecommunications from the International Islamic University of Malaysia. In the spring of 2017, he was admitted as a postgraduate student at Université Laval in Quebec City to pursue a doctorate.

On his social media accounts, Camara indicates he has been a doctoral researcher at the École polytechnique de Montréal since January of 2018.

During one of his initial court appearances, Camara told the judge he was supposed to give a course at Polytechnique on Wednesday, the same day as his bail hearing, Radio-Canada reported.

Violent altercation led to massive investigation

Montreal police set up a command post on Saturday in the neighbourhood to gather more information about the incident, which ended with a police officer in hospital.

Police spokesperson Const. Raphaël Bergeron said at the time that investigators want to speak to anyone with any information, no matter how inconsequential it may seem.

A large operation was underway in Montreal’s north end last Thursday after a police officer was injured during an altercation with a motorist. (Mathieu Wagner/Radio-Canada)

The incident, which began around 4 p.m., led to a massive police operation in the neighbourhood.

At first, Montreal police said an officer had been shot and was in hospital with serious injuries to the upper body. 

Later, the service said it wasn’t clear if the officer had been injured by a bullet or something else.

By the next day, police said the officer had been released from hospital, but would not confirm the nature of his injuries.

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