Toronto police officer details chaotic moments following death of Const. Jeffery Northrup testifying at trial

Testifying from the witness stand in a downtown courtroom Monday, a police officer who witnessed the death of Const. Jeffrey Northrup in the park under Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square in 2021 described a chaotic scene that occurred after the officer’s death.

Const. Scharnil Pais of the Toronto Police Service said officers crashed their unmarked SUV into the back of the BMW that had just hit Const. Jeffrey Northrup immediately after the accident. When Pais jumped out of the vehicle, gun drawn, to arrest driver Umar Zameer, he found a female passenger. Pregnant and wearing a hijab, the woman screamed that there was a child in the vehicle, she told the High Court.

“She said, ‘We didn’t know. We didn’t know you were police officers,’” Pais testified. “She also asked me: ‘Is he okay? Please tell me it’s going to be okay.’”

“At the time, I didn’t officially know the status, but having witnessed what I had seen, I assumed the worst,” the officer told the court.

Pais testified in the first-degree murder trial of Umar Zameer, a 34-year-old accountant accused of running over and killing Const. Northrup in the park just after midnight on July 2, 2021. Zameer has pleaded not guilty and is expected to testify that he thought his family was being attacked by criminals, just a month after a Muslim family was run over and killed in London. Ont.

Pais said the woman retrieved her crying child and went to the driver’s side of the BMW to find Zameer himself. Zameer did not respond to commands, so Pais said she punched him in the face.

“I said that’s my partner you just ran over,” Pais said. “I told him he was under arrest.”

A video compilation presented as an exhibit shows Zameer, his pregnant wife and their two-year-old son wandering from Yonge-Dundas Square to Nathan Phillips Square that night.

At the same time, a group of plainclothes officers were reassigned to the park to investigate the stabbing of a man lying right in front of Toronto City Hall.

Sergeant. Lisa Forbes testified last week that she and Const. Northrup approached Zameer and his vehicle on foot and identified themselves as police officers, but Zameer’s attorney, Nader Hasan, suggested that she and her partner rushed into the vehicle without identifying themselves as officers, which scared Zameer.

Umar Zameer, defense lawyers Alexandra Heine, Nader Hasan and Crown lawyer Karen Simone, appear in this courtroom sketch as Judge Anne Molloy and jurors look on in Toronto on Thursday, March 21, 2024. (The Canadian Press/Alexandra Newbould)Meanwhile, Pais and his partner were in an unmarked police car driving through the park to better cover the ground, he testified. His car approached the interaction between Zameer and the other officers as it was happening, she said.

Pais described seeing the car lurch forward and then hearing Forbes say, “What the hell? Police! Stop!” as the vehicle backed up and then advanced toward Northrup, who had both hands outstretched.

“The vehicle turned quickly to the right. I heard tires squeal. I heard the engine rev,” Pais recalled, briefly becoming emotional as he recounted when the car hit Northrup.

“We were shocked by what we had just seen. There was a moment of, just a split second, what do we do? he said. “Everything happened very quickly.”

Photos presented in court show the front of the unmarked police van damaged by the crash, but they cannot be shared by court order, and no images of Pais himself can be shown.

Pais testified that another car in front of Zameer at the City Hall gate had fled after the accident, ripping the arm off the gate as it took off.

As to whether Forbes and Northrup had flashed their badges, he said: “At the time I hadn’t noticed a police badge.”

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