Family 'destroyed' by death of Montreal man shot by police

The family of an 18-year-old shot dead by Montreal police say his death has destroyed them and they need to know the truth about what happened.

The family of an 18-year-old shot dead by Montreal police say his death has destroyed them and they need to know the truth about what happened.

Fredy Villanueva, shown here in an undated family photo. ((Canadian Press))
Fredy Villanueva's family spoke publicly Friday for the first time since the 18-year-old was shot and killed last Saturday, sparking riots and unrest in Montreal North.

"We are a family that has been destroyed," said his sister Patricia in French at a news conference in the borough.

"Was it necessary? He was a young man, barely starting his life," she said, fighting back tears. "I would have rather been in his place. I've experienced more [life]."

The family is ready to wait for results from a police investigation into Villanueva's death, she said, but they haven't discounted other means to finding the truth. The family is prepared to ask for a public inquiry if it becomes necessary, she added.

Police tight-lipped about new reports

The Montreal and provincial police forces are refusing to comment on reports suggesting Villanueva's shooting was prompted by the severe beating of one of the officers involved.

The Montreal Gazette cited an anonymous veteran policeman who said the officer was trying to save his female partner's life when he shot the unarmed 18-year-old.

The anonymous officer also criticized the police force for failing to publicly defend the two officers involved in the shooting.

Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafrenière acknowledged that the force's inability to comment has created tension among officers.

Quebec provincial police have taken over the investigation of the shooting, but many local people are calling for a public inquiry, saying officers shouldn't investigate their counterparts.

Villanueva had been playing dice in Henri-Bourassa Park with friends Saturday night, prior to the shooting.

City police said two officers were trying to arrest an individual in the park when they were surrounded by a group of youths.

Officers opened fire, hitting Villanueva, another 18-year-old and a 20-year-old. The two injured are expected to recover.

A coroner's report concluded Villanueva was struck by three bullets and died from massive blood loss. 

Mayor calls for open investigation, cooperation

 Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay said Friday that more must be done to help youths in Montreal North who are frustrated with what they see as a lack of social justice.

Tremblay said he wants the Quebec and federal governments to get more involved in community initiatives.

He also reiterated his desire for the police investigation into Villanueva's death to be open and transparent.

More than 300 mourners gathered in a north-end borough to pay their last respects to Villanueva on Thursday.

Members of Fredy Villanueva's family comfort each other at his funeral in Montreal on Thursday. ((Graham Hugues/Canadian Press))
During the mostly Spanish service, a pastor called for an end to the turmoil.

Family members wore T-shirts emblazoned with a photo of a smiling Villanueva eating birthday cake.

A mother's tears

The words, "Pipo, we will always remember you" were printed in Spanish below the picture.

His mother Lilian wept as she stood before his coffin after the service. Her hand shook as it caressed her son's image on her shirt.

Villanueva's family and friends clutched each other tightly as they released doves and balloons outside the funeral home, symbolizing hope and peace.

After the birds flew away, his mother leaned over one of the cages and broke down in tears.

A cortege then escorted Villanueva's casket to a cemetery in Laval, north of Montreal.

About 20 police vans and motorcycles waited at a secluded parking lot a few blocks from the funeral home, but no uniformed officers were seen at the service.

District tense after shooting

The gritty, multi-ethnic borough is still on edge in the wake of Villanueva's death.

Doves symbolizing peace and hope were released at the funeral. ((Graham Hugues/Canadian Press))
Relations between police and youth have been tenuous in the district north of Montreal's metropolitan highway.

"Rage, lots of rage," said local resident Jonathan Bouffard as he entered the funeral Thursday.

"The whole community is concerned. What happened is disgusting."

Villanueva's death has amplified tensions in the area, which has seen a rise in vandalism since rioters rampaged through the community Sunday, looting shops and torching cars.

One police officer was shot in the leg, while two others and an ambulance technician were also injured in the clashes.

With files from the Canadian Press