June 18, 2024

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‘Crystal clear’: Toronto police chief accepts, supports Umar Zameer acquittal | National News

4 min read
‘Crystal clear’: Toronto police chief accepts, supports Umar Zameer acquittal | National News

Toronto’s police chief sought to make it “crystal clear” Tuesday that he accepts and supports the not-guilty verdict delivered at the trial of a man accused of fatally running over an officer – comments that came after he said earlier police were “hoping for a different outcome.”

Umar Zameer was acquitted Sunday in the death of Det. Const. Jeffrey Northrup, who was hit by a vehicle in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall nearly three years ago. Zameer had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and testified he didn’t know Northrup and his partner – who were in plain clothes – were officers.

Police Chief Myron Demkiw was seen hugging Northrup’s widow after the verdict was announced and said that day that police respect the judicial process and appreciate the work of everyone involved but “we were hoping for a different outcome.”

On Tuesday, Demkiw said repeatedly that he accepts the jury’s verdict.

“In the context of the totality of the circumstances, what I was trying to convey is that I accept the jury’s findings,” he said.

“Let me be crystal clear, I support and accept the verdict of the jury.”

The clarity offered by the chief came a day after Demkiw announced that his force has asked Ontario Provincial Police to conduct an independent review into the case after “adverse comments” made by the judge presiding over the trial.

Demkiw has also ordered a full internal review of all aspects of plainclothes policing.

The police chief said he would be as open as possible about the findings of the OPP review.

“I’ll do everything possible to be as transparent as we can be based on what we learned through that process,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to rebuild trust in the best way we possibly can.”

In her final instructions, Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy told jurors they had to consider the possibility the three officers who witnessed the incident had colluded.

She also said there was no evidence to fully support the Crown’s theory that Northrup was hit while standing out of view of a security camera in the parking garage.

In announcing the OPP review on Monday, Toronto police said that a review of officer testimony, conduct, procedures, practices, and training is required whenever it becomes aware of concerns raised by the judiciary.

Legal observers have questioned the decision to charge and prosecute Zameer for murder when the evidence did not support it.

Comments on the case made by several politicians, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford before the trial even began, were also criticized by observers.

When Zameer was released on bail in the fall of 2021, Ford expressed his disapproval on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling the decision “completely unacceptable.” He initially described Zameer as “the person responsible for this heinous crime,” but later changed it to “the person charged.”

When asked Tuesday about his comments when Zameer was granted bail, Ford said he had “limited information” at the time.

“It’s a very sad situation,” he told reporters at the legislature. “At that time I had limited information. The courts have decided, the jury decided and you have to respect the justice system.”

During trial, prosecutors alleged Zameer chose to drive dangerously even though Northrup and his partner were nearby, and alleged Zameer intentionally ran down Northrup.

Defence lawyers argued Zameer didn’t know they were police officers and feared his family was under attack from robbers or a gang. They argued Zameer had no reason to want to flee police, and tried to escape as safely as he could.

Zameer testified he looked back when reversing and to the front while driving forward, and did not see anything in the car’s path.

Three officers who witnessed the incident testified Northrup was standing in the laneway of the garage with his hands outstretched when he was run over. But security footage showed Northrup was not standing in the laneway. Instead, an object believed to be his body appeared on the ground in the car’s path at one point.

Two crash reconstruction experts, one of them called by the Crown, concluded Northrup fell after being side swiped by the car reversing, and was already on the ground when he was run over by the car moving forward. The expert called by the defence also testified Northrup would not have been visible on the ground because he was in the car’s blind zone.

Prosecutors argued the witness officers were wrong about Northrup’s location but correct that he was standing. They alleged the impact happened behind a pillar blocking the view of the camera.

Defence lawyers alleged the officers lied on the stand.

When asked about the allegations of collusion and lies on the part of the witness officers, Demkiw said Tuesday that it would be “completely inappropriate” for him to comment at this stage.

“This is why there is an independent review and we’ll let the review do the work that is required,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2024.

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