The Montreal police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Fredy Villanueva said he did so because he feared his life and that of his partner were in "imminent danger."
The statement was included in the report written by Const. Jean-Loup Lapointe following the shooting in a Montreal North park on Aug. 9, 2008.
Lapointe’s report, as well as the one written by his partner, Const. Stéphanie Pilotte, were released by Quebec Court Judge André Perreault, who is heading the coroner’s inquest into Villanueva’s death.
The inquest resumed Tuesday after a five-week break.
The two reports provide a similar version of the events that Saturday afternoon.
Lapointe’s report, submitted to his superiors one month after the shooting, explained how the officer drove up to a group of five individuals gathered in Henri-Bourassa Park. The officer said he "saw very distinctly" that the men were playing dice, contrary to a municipal bylaw.
Among them, Lapointe said he saw Jeffrey Sagor Météllus, a known member of the Bloods street gang, as well as another man that he also recognized as a street-gang member.
Villanueva's brother resisted
After stopping his car and calling the men over, Lapointe said all of them obeyed his order except one: Villanueva’s older brother, Danny, who walked away.
Lapointe said he then got out of his cruiser and ordered the man to identify himself.
When the elder Villanueva refused, Lapointe tried to take him into custody. He said he was concerned Villanueva was armed.
Lapointe said some of the men shouted out in protest and began to form a line behind the officers. He said he felt "surrounded and confined against his car."
Lapointe said Villanueva fought back, forcing the officer to push him to the ground.
He described how Villanueva kicked Pilotte several times as they tried to restrain him. Lapointe said Villanueva even managed to free his hands and "hit me with his right fist straight in the face, on the jaw."
Then, Lapointe said he noticed the other four men moving in on him. Two seemed to be stretching out their hands toward his neck and his belt, where he carried his gun.
When one of them grabbed his neck, Lapointe said he realized his partner "was not in a position to come to [his] defence … and [he] was not physically capable of overcoming these men."
After the men ignored his order to back up, Lapointe said he "saw no other alternative than to fire immediately."
Lapointe said he was so concerned about the threat of being disarmed by the men that he shot his gun "three or four times," without even removing it from the holster.
Lapointe’s gunshots struck and killed Fredy Villanueva. Sagor Météllus and another man, Denis Méas, were also injured.
Police partner distracted
In her report submitted Aug. 15, 2008, Pilotte said that while trying to restrain Danny Villanueva she was so "focused on the lower part of his body" as he kicked that she "had no knowledge of what was going on around."
"I can’t even say what was the precise position of my partner on the ground," wrote Pilotte, who had graduated from the province’s police academy 18 months before the shooting.
Also on Tuesday, the judge released photographs of the officers’ injuries, taken by a provincial police crime scene technician.
The photos show Pilotte had minor bruises on her arm and a contusion on a knee. Lapointe had a banged-up elbow — there were no pictures of his jaw or head.
The shooting sparked violent riots in the multi-ethnic working class community of Montreal North. Quebec's Liberal government ordered a coroner's inquest amid pressure from the Villanueva's family, friends and community.
The inquest started last spring but was derailed when key witnesses refused to take part because their legal fees weren't covered by the province.
The inquest is expected to continue Wednesday with further testimony from Pilotte.