The family of Jermaine Carby, who was shot and killed by police two years ago in Brampton, has filed a $12 million lawsuit on Wednesday, alleging that he was racially profiled.
Carby was fatally shot by a Peel police officer following a traffic stop in Brampton in 2014. Last year, the Special Investigations Unit, which probes deaths involving cops in Ontario, cleared Peel police of any criminal wrongdoing in the incident, finding that the officer who shot him was acting in self-defence.
But the incident was revisited in May in a coroner's inquest, during which many previously unknown details, like the names of the officers involved and why Carby was asked for his identification during the stop, were revealed to the public.
The statement of claim, which names the Peel Regional Police Services Board, Chief Jennifer Evans and seven Peel officers, alleges Carby was the subject of an "unlawful street check," which led to a confrontation that ended in his death.
Carby was racially profiled by a Peel officer Const. Jason Senechal "without any lawful basis, that he was involved in criminal activity," the lawsuit reads, adding that "Senechal was motivated by racial prejudice and stereotypes."
Carby was sitting in the passenger seat of his friend's car when they were pulled over by Senechal. The officer stopped the men because the car's license plate was falling off and its headlights weren't turned on, according to evidence presented during a coroner's inquest in May.
After initially questioning Carby's friend Acacio Barros, Senechal turned his attention to Carby, who reluctantly answered his questions, the lawsuit said. The officer ran Carby's name through the Canadian Police Information Centre, an RCMP database, and discovered that he had an outstanding warrant in British Columbia for breaching his probation, that he suffered from mental illness, that he'd previously attempted suicide and wanted to be shot by police, and that he had tried to disarm a police officer.
When Senechal came back to the car to question Carby about the warrants, Carby pulled out a knife, according to the SIU, and approached the officers, prompting Const. Ryan Reid, who had arrived on the scene after Senechal called for backup, to start shooting.
Reid testified at the inquest that Carby had become agitated, pulled the knife, and said, "Shoot me, shoot me." He fired his seven shots, hitting Carby three times.
Although witnesses testified at the coroner's inquest that they heard police shouting at Carby to "drop the knife," they couldn't agree on whether he was actually holding one.
Since Senechal was aware that Carby suffered from mental illness, he should've taken steps to de-escalate the situation and avoid a dangerous confrontation, said the statement of claim. Instead, he did the opposite by unlawfully demanding that he get out of the car and searching him, along with Reid.
Senechal and Reid provoked Carby into a "mental health crisis and violent confrontation," the lawsuit said.
While it wasn't clear at first why Senechal had asked Carby, a passenger in a car he'd pulled over, for his identification, the officer testified during the coroner's inquest that he was doing a "street check"—a practice that the lawsuit argues "disproportionately targets and affects racialized people, especially young Black men, including Mr. Carby."
The family also alleges that the SIU's investigation was corrupted when a Peel police officer decided to remove Carby's knife from the scene and arrested or detained his friend, who was the only non-police witness of what happened leading up to the shooting. The lawsuit alleges that the officers planted a knife at the scene and "conspired to fabricate evidence to justify the excessive force used against Mr. Carby."
No statement of defence has been filed, and the allegations have yet to be proven in court.
Spokesperson Sgt. Joshua Colley told VICE News that Peel Regional Police are unable to comment at this time, since the civil matter is before the courts.
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