Villanueva Inquest: Police release a howler:

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Yes, because there’s nothing more frightening to an armed officer than the site of a youth walking away saying “leave me alone”. Still any lingering questions why the Kahnawake didn’t want law enforcement within a hectare of the Olympic flame?

Before shooting Villanueva, officer gripped by fear: report

5 men, 2 cops; Testimony similar to that of partner

BY SUE MONTGOMERY, THE GAZETTEDECEMBER 9, 2009

Before he fired his service pistol four times, killing unarmed teen Fredy Villanueva, Montreal police officer Jean-Loup Lapointe was overwhelmed with fear that he would be seriously injured or killed.

In his six-page report, released yesterday by the judge presiding over the coroner’s inquest examining the shooting, Lapointe gives his version of what happened on Aug. 9, 2008, in the parking lot beside Henri Bourassa Park in Montreal North.

His report, submitted to his supervisors a month after the tragedy, is similar to that of his partner, who handed in her report a week after the shooting. It was also among more than 100 exhibits made public yesterday.

Neither officer was ever questioned by Sûreté du Québec officers – who are called in to investigate when a civilian is injured or killed by a member of another police force – nor were they separated in the hours and days following the event, despite police directives.

Lapointe said he and Stéphanie Pilotte saw a group of five men playing dice in the parking lot. When the police stopped to question them, Dany Villanueva began to walk away and the officers asked him to stop.

“He was moving his arms around aggressively and yelling that he’d done nothing,” Lapointe wrote.

Before long, both officers tried to handcuff him because Lapointe recognized him as having prior convictions for crimes and was worried he might be carrying a gun.

Meanwhile, the four other men, who were only about two metres away, were yelling at the police to let Dany Villanueva go.

It was difficult to control him, so Lapointe got him on the ground on his back, where he continued “to fight violently.”

Dany Villanueva kicked Pilotte a couple of times as she tried to control his legs, and Lapointe wrote that he, too, was kneed in the back and ribs, then was punched in the jaw.

One of the other men grabbed at Lapointe’s throat and his belt, while another went for Lapointe’s left arm and chest, the officer wrote.

“At that moment, I was overwhelmed with fear that I’d be seriously hurt or killed,” Lapointe wrote, adding he was afraid one of the blows would knock him unconscious.

His partner couldn’t defend him and he was afraid the men would grab his gun and use it against the officers, Lapointe wrote. There were only 15 inches between the barrel of Lapointe’s service pistol and Fredy Villanueva, 18, when the officer fired four bullets, SQ ballistics expert Éric Hudon testified yesterday. Two other men who were with Villanueva were injured.

Pilotte’s testimony, which was halted Oct. 30 when the inquest took a five-week break, is to resume today. She had reached a crucial point in her testimony, when the two officers had been about to confront the men at the park.

But in her report, also made public yesterday, she wrote that while focusing on controlling Dany Villanueva’s kicking legs, she had no idea what was going on around her.

“I couldn’t even say where exactly my partner was,” she wrote. “I knew the young men were yelling, but don’t know what they were saying.”

But she does recall looking up for a “fraction of a second” and seeing three men leaning toward her partner, and one of them had his hand open “in a half moon (like about to strangle someone).”

“After seeing that image very, very quickly, I looked back at the legs and feet of the suspect who was still hitting me,” she wrote. “I looked up again after hearing the gunfire.”

Both officers gave detailed descriptions in their reports of being hit during the altercation, and photos of their injuries were released to the media yesterday.

smontgomery@thegazette.canwest.com

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