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Officers who spoke to man accused of running over cop testify at trial

Justice Molloy, left to right, Umar Zameer, Detective Adam Taylor, Nader Hasan and Michael Cantlon crown are shown in a courtroom sketch in Toronto on Wednesday, March 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

TORONTO — Two police officers who spoke to a man accused of running over a constable say he told them at the scene of the incident that he didn't know the people who had approached his car were police.

Det. Const. Ryan D'Souza and Det. Const. Scharnil Pais were called to testify about the comments Umar Zameer made to them at the time of his arrest on July 2, 2021.

Zameer has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Det. Const. Jeffrey Northrup, who died after he was hit by a vehicle in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall. 

Crown prosecutors allege Zameer chose to make a series of manoeuvres with his car while officers were nearby, causing Northrup's death. The defence says the incident was a tragic accident, and Zameer and his family believed they were being attacked.

On Thursday, Zameer testified that he was scared when an unknown man and woman – Northrup and his partner, who were in plain clothes – rushed toward his car in the garage shortly after midnight, believing he, his pregnant wife and two-year-old son were being robbed.

He said that when police later told him he had run over a police officer, he replied that he hadn't run over anyone and that he hadn't known the people outside his car were officers.

D'Souza, who arrived at the scene after Zameer had been arrested, says Zameer told him a man and woman were banging the windows and door of his car so he was scared and trying to get away.

Zameer told him he had no idea they were police and he wouldn't have left if he had known, the officer testified. D'Souza said he asked Zameer if he had seen police badges and Zameer replied that he hadn't seen anything.

He noted Zameer appeared "in a state of shock, not completely present."

Pais, who testified earlier in the trial and took the stand a second time Friday, was one of the officers who stopped Zameer's car and carried out the arrest.

He recalled walking over to Zameer, who was handcuffed on the ground, in an effort to get him to move to the other side of the car. He said he told Zameer to get up and that he had just run over a cop.

Zameer replied that he didn't know at the time that the people were officers, Pais said. The officer said he showed Zameer blood on the car and said something like, "that's my partner you just ran over." 

Pais said Zameer told him there had been a stabbing in the area earlier that night and they were scared. The officer said he then punched Zameer to get him to move. Pais said he did not remember Zameer saying anything else.

Under cross-examination, Pais denied that Zameer mentioned being scared because of the man and woman at his car. He acknowledged that his notes on the incident may not reflect everything that was said, but added he would have remembered a comment like that.

Court has previously heard that Pais and his partner, Det. Const. Antonio Correa, each gave a statement to police on July 2 and wrote their notes on the incident more than a month later, on Aug. 4. They also did a walkthrough of the garage together on July 20 to refresh their memories, they testified.

The defence has suggested Pais and Correa had spoken to each other about the case but both maintained they had not discussed their evidence with anyone.

On Friday, D'Souza told the court that he, Pais, Correa and two other officers wrote their notes at the same time inside the 52 Division training room. 

When asked about it on Friday, Pais said he could not recall if others were present when he wrote his notes.

Prosecutors and the defence are expected to make their closing submissions to the jury next week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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