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Toronto cop details chaotic moments following death of Const. Jeffery Northrup in trial testimony

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Testifying from the witness box in a downtown courtroom on Monday, a police officer who witnessed the death of Const. Jeffrey Northrup in the parkade under Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square in 2021 described a chaotic scene that ensued following the officer's death.

Const. Scharnil Pais with the Toronto Police Service said officers slammed their unmarked van into the back of the BMW that had just run over Const. Jeffrey Northrup immediately following the crash. As 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, he told the Superior Court.

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

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

Pais was testifying in the first-degree murder trial of Umar Zameer, a 34-year-old accountant who is accused of running over and killing Const. Northrup in the parkade 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 had been run over and killed in London, Ontario.

Pais said the woman then retrieved her crying child, and he moved to the drivers' side of the BMW to find Zameer himself. Zameer didn’t respond to commands, so Pais said he struck him across the face.

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

A video compilation entered as an exhibit shows Zameer, his pregnant wife, and his 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 re-tasked to the parkade to investigate the stabbing of a man lying just in front of Toronto City Hall.

Sgt. 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 lawyer Nader Hasan has suggested she and her partner rushed the vehicle without identifying themselves as officers, spooking Zameer.

Umar Zameer, defence lawyers Alexandra Heine, Nader Hasan, Crown attorney Karen Simone, are shown in this courtroom sketch as Justice Anne Molloy and jury members 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 the parkade to better cover ground, he testified. Their car approached the interaction between Zameer and the other officers as it was happening, he said.

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

“The vehicle made a quick right turn. I heard tires squealing. I heard the engine revving,” recalled Pais, briefly becoming emotional as he recounted when the car ran over Northrup.

“We were in shock as to what we had just seen. There was a moment of, just a split second, what do we do?” he said. “It all happened very quickly.”

Photos presented in court show the unmarked police van’s front end damaged from the crash, but they cannot be shared by court order, and any images of Pais himself cannot be shown.

Pais testified that another car in front of Zameer at the city hall gate had fled after the crash, taking out the gate arm as it took off.

As for whether the Forbes and Northrup had displayed their badges, he said, “At this point I had not noticed a police badge."

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