More testimony in the inquiry into the police murder of Fredy Villanueva in 2008 – Fredy was yelling “Stop!” as the police beat on his brother, and that’s what was so threatening that they shot him – and two others – in Montreal’s most famous case of white panic.
MONTREAL – As the bullets that killed Fredy Villanueva rang out from a Montreal police officer’s service revolver, the 18-year-old was yelling “Stop! Stop! Stop!” – “many times” – and repeatedly bringing both hands from his thighs to above his head, an eyewitness to the young man’s mortal wounding in a Montreal North parking lot testified Friday morning.
Villanueva was leaning slightly forward and was never closer to Constable Jean-Loup Lapointe than “two arm’s lengths, more or less,” when Lapointe discharged his weapon, Gerardo Escobar testified.
The young man’s knees buckled to the ground and he “folded over,” Escobar added, leaning his left shoulder down and slightly forward to illustrate.
Fredy Villanueva had never touched the officer before Lapointe opened fire, he testified.
“It was very fast…. Paf, paf, paf, paf,” Escobar testified, describing the rapid-fire sequence of shots after Villanueva had approached Lapointe with gestures used in Latino and Haitian circles to signal ‘time-out’ or ‘cool it.’
Moments before Fredy Villanueva intervened, Escobar testified, Lapointe had pushed Dany Villanueva, Fredy’s older brother, face down onto the hood of Lapointe’s patrol car – eliciting a “Boom!” sound, Escobar told coroner André Perreault.
“His (Dany Villanueva’s) head hit first,” atop the cruiser’s engine compartment, Escobar added.
Then, Escobar testified, in Spanish through a translator, Lapointe took Dany Villanueva, who was moving his arms and upper body, around Dany Villanueva’s upper chest or neck with his left arm.
“Using his feet,” Escobar said, Lapointe tripped Dany Villanueva and rotated him to the ground.
Dany Villanueva’s head also hit the asphalt first that time, Escobar testified.
Seated in the witness stand, Escobar leaned forward and slapped the top of his head, illustrating for the coroner the initial point of impact of Dany Villanueva’s head on the parking-lot pavement.
With Dany Villanueva stretched out on the ground, face-up and struggling, according to Escobar, and with Lapointe “on top of him,” Fredy Villanueva stepped forward, yelling and gesturing, from a group that had been watching the encounter.
Escobar was describing the rapid and fatal sequence of events under direct examination by François Daviault, chief counsel for the coroner’s inquest.
Did Fredy Villanueva at any time touch Lapointe, Daviault asked the witness.
“No,” Escobar responded.
“Did he have anything in his hands?”
“He had nothing,” Escobar answered.
Escobar testified that he had been playing soccer on the early-August Saturday night almost two years ago, around 7 p.m., with several young adults and children when he stopped to observe the police intervention.
He also said that “I was fired” from his job after Sûreté du Québec investigators “came to my workplace,” picked him up, took him to his home and took a witness statement from him.
After “many, many” police cars converged on the scene, but before any ambulances arrived, “police jumped over the fence,” Escobar testified, “yelling ‘Move away!’
“They were very aggressive.”
“I started to walk (away) slowly and he (a police officer) pushed me, told me to hurry up.”
Escobar responded to the officer as follows, he testified:
“I was here before you” on the scene. “And there’s a kid you killed. You are assassins!”
The officer responded by “shouting in my ear,” Escobar said.
The death triggered rioting in the north-east section of the Montreal North borough,
“After the death of Fredy,” Escobar told Daviault, “there were many provocations on the part of the police” in the neighbourhood.
He is to continue on the witness stand Friday afternoon.
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For more on this case, see the Montreal Nord-Republik blog.