The mother of Fredy Villanueva, Lilian Maribel Madrid Villenueva, says her son died for nothing after a coroner's inquest found that the teen was not trying to disarm or threaten the lives of police officers.
Villanueva, 18, was shot and killed on Aug. 9, 2008, by Const. Jean-Loup Lapointe of Montreal police, after the young man was found playing an illegal game of dice with his brother and three friends in Montreal's Henri-Bourassa Park.
'Fredy Villanueva did not deserve to die.' - Judge André Perreault
Villanueva's mother made a brief statement following the release of the coroner's report on Tuesday.
“It’s difficult for me. We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, It’s very very difficult," she said.
Holding back tears, she defended her son.
"My son Fredy, he is not a thug. He was not threatening the life of the police officer. My son Fredy died for nothing."
Coroner's report criticizes police tactics
The report, released by the Quebec coroner's office and led by Quebec Judge André Perreault, was critical of police and how they dealt with Villanueva and his friends.
It states that a range of factors led to Villanueva's death. The report adds that none of those circumstances, considered on their own, would justify his death.
“Each year, thousands of infractions as trivial as playing dice in the park are the subject of police interventions that go well, even when police and members of the public disagree,” Perrault writes in the report.
“Fredy Villanueva did not deserve to die. The proof does not establish that he was trying to disarm Const. Lapointe or that he even took him or his partner seriously."
Quebec's public prosecution office had previously ruled that Lapointe acted in self-defence when he shot the teenager at close range.
The prosecutor said the shooting was justified, because the officer acted to save himself and his partner after the confrontation with Villanueva and his friends escalated to a physical altercation.
But Perreault said it's likely that Villanueva had no idea how his actions could be interpreted by a police officer.
"I doubt that Fredy Villanueva even thought about the risk that he was running … he probably did not know that Const. Lapointe could perceive his actions, combined with that of his friends, as an act of aggression that could be seen as threatening his life or that of his partner," he wrote.
With the hope of preventing future tragedies, the coroner's report contains about 20 recommendations, which focus largely on police practices and protocol.
Highlights from the recommendations
For the Quebec Ministry of Public Security:
- Clear guidelines for police who come into physical contact with an individual who has not been detained or arrested.
- Clear guidelines for when a police officer is authorized to take a weapon out of its holster, when an officer can fire a weapon and at what point he or she should stop shooting.
- A clearly stated position on the controversial practice and training of patrol officers to shoot at the core of a person's body, until the threat has ended, knowing that this practice, almost systematically, results in shots being fired unnecessarily.
- Ensure that the police force does not equip patrol officers with firearms for which the sequence of the gunshots following the initial shot is swift enough [to fire] ... 3 to 5 bullets in 1 second or 1.5 seconds.
For the City of Montreal and the borough council of Montreal North:
- Create a public action plan for poverty and social exclusion for residents in Montreal North.
For Montreal police:
- Ensure that police called to work in Montreal North receive training for dealing with members of ethnocultural minority groups and understanding their perceptions of police.
For the Quebec police school:
- Create and implement training to teach officers how to respond when an officer or their partner is attacked.
- Create and implement training that teaches officers how to distinguish between criminal profiling, racial profiling and social profiling.
Montreal police will follow recommendations
Montreal police Chief Marc Parent said that while he still has to read through the full report, which is more than 100 pages long, the police department generally supports the coroner's findings.
Parent said the police department plans to implement the recommendations directed specifically at the force, while also being sensitive to other recommendations that may indirectly affect police.
He added that respect is a core value of the police force, and a value he has upheld since he took over in September 2010.
“As long as we are respectful, we will be treated with respect in our interventions,” Parent said.