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Officer was not visible to driver when he was run over: crash reconstructionist

Umar Zameer, accused in the killing of Toronto Police Const. Jeffrey Northrup, left to right, 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

TORONTO — A Toronto police officer would not have been visible to the man who ran him over because he was on the ground in the car's blind zone, a crash reconstructionist told jurors Monday.

Det. Const. Jeffrey Northrup was knocked off balance and fell to the ground in an area in front of Umar Zameer's BMW that would have been blocked from Zameer's view by the car's engine hood, Barry Raftery testified.

When the car started moving forward, "Officer Northrup was at a location where he would not be visible to Mr. Zameer," said Raftery, who was called to testify by the defence.

Zameer has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the officer's death. 

Northrup died shortly after midnight on July 2, 2021, after he was run over by a vehicle in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall. Court has heard the officer was six feet and four inches tall and weighed more than 250 pounds.

Prosecutors allege Zameer caused Northrup’s death by making a series of manoeuvres with his car while officers were nearby, but the defence says it was an accident and neither Zameer nor his wife knew the pair – who were in plain clothes – were officers.

On the stand Monday, Raftery said Zameer's car didn't show any of the damage he would expect to find if someone of Northrup's stature had fallen on the hood of the car. There were no dents on the hood or damage to the front bumper or windshield, he said.

“The officer was not struck while standing up,” he did not get hit by the front bumper and did not land on the hood, Raftery told the court.

Based on the physical evidence, the "only reasonable conclusion" is that Northrup was already on the ground when he was run over, the reconstructionist said.

He said a displacement of dust on front driver side fender supports a conclusion that the car made "glancing" contact with Northrup while reversing, knocking him down. There was no dent there either, which suggests the contact would not have made a sound, he said.

Crown prosecutors previously called a police crash reconstructionist, who told the court he concluded Northrup had been knocked to the ground by the car reversing before he was run over by it going forward.

However, the three officers who witnessed the incident testified Northrup was standing in the middle of the garage laneway with his hands up when he was run over.

Court has heard Northrup and his partner were in the garage to investigate a stabbing.

Zameer, who was with his pregnant wife and their young son at the time, was not involved in the stabbing.

Zameer's wife, Aaida Shaikh, testified they did not know the people who approached them were officers and instead thought they were being attacked. Shaikh said she thought they had hit a speed bump while trying to leave the parking area and didn't realize they had run over a person until she heard it from police.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2024.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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