Jermaine Carby’s family is seeking at least $12 million in damages in the suit filed against the Peel regional police chief, a number of officers and the force’s board.
Carby’s death highlighted issues with the controversial police practice of street checks, known as “carding,” which critics say disproportionately target young black, brown and indigenous men and women. Ontario’s government has since moved to ban the practice.
The case was investigated by the province’s police watchdog, which last year decided not to charge the officer who killed the 33-year-old man, saying Carby walked towards police with a knife and refused orders to stop.
But in a statement of claim filed this week, a lawyer for Carby’s mother, who is the plaintiff in the case, alleges Carby’s entire interaction with police was rooted in racial discrimination.
“Mr. Carby was subjected to a street check…this street check was not lawful. To the contrary, it was an unlawful search and seizure and motivated by racial prejudice,” the document said. “This street check was not an isolated incident but rather one example of a systematic and co-ordinated policy and practice employed by the (Peel Regional Police Service).”
The lawsuit contains allegations that have not been proven in court. A spokesman for Peel regional police said the force was “unable to comment” on the matter that was before the courts.
Carby was a passenger in a car that was pulled over in Brampton, Ont., in September 2014 when an officer said the car’s lights weren’t on and its licence plate was dangling.
The lawsuit’s statement of claim alleges Const. Jason Senechal, a white officer who observed Carby and his friend in the car, was “immediately suspicious” of the pair and decided to pursue “a baseless and unfounded criminal investigation” against the men.
“Senechal was motivated by racial prejudice when he detained Mr. Carby at the roadside,” the document alleged. “Senechal engaged in racial profiling. He believed Mr. Carby was involved in criminal activity solely because Mr. Carby was a young black man.”
The statement of claim alleges the lights of the vehicle Carby was in were actually working and its licence plate was secure. It claims Senechal “concocted” a reason to stop the car so he could pursue an unwarranted criminal investigation.
After questioning the driver of the vehicle, conducting a pat-down search of the man and taking a breath sample, Senechal then questioned Carby, asking for his name and date of birth before running his information through a database, the statement of claim said.
The search on Carby revealed the man suffered from mental illness, had previously attempted to disarm a police officer and had an outstanding warrant in British Columbia for allegedly breaching probation, the document said.
It alleged Senechal ignored information that showed Carby was a vulnerable person and instead only focused on information that “supported his prejudicial and discriminatory views.”
Senechal called for backup and, after two other officers arrived, questioned Carby further, allegedly upsetting the man, the document said. When officers moved to search Carby, he pulled out a knife to prevent them from doing so, it said.
“His belief was reasonable considering his state of mind and that he had been racially profiled, unlawfully detained, interrogated,” the document said, noting that all three officers drew their guns. “The actions of the officers exacerbated the situation and drove Mr. Carby into a state of mental health crisis.”
Carby slowly walked towards the officers and told them to shoot him, when he did not drop the knife, one of the officers, Const. Ryan Reid, shot at him seven times, the statement of claim said.
“Mr. Carby was shot and killed approximately three minutes after Senechal had searched his name,” the document said. “No officer provided reasonable and appropriate medical assistance to Mr. Carby.”