Skip to content

Wife of man accused of killing cop said they didn't know they were police: officer


Umar Zameer, 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 — The wife of a man accused of running over a Toronto police constable told the officer who pulled her out of the car at gunpoint that she didn't know they were police, court heard Tuesday.

Aaida Shaikh, who was eight months pregnant at the time, was crying and appeared scared when she was taken out of the BMW moments after the incident, said Const. Scharnil Pais, one of the two officers carrying out the takedown.

Court has heard Pais and his partner, Const. Antonio Correa, were in an unmarked police van that rammed into the BMW, which had already come to a stop by the parking barrier. The impact was enough to deploy the airbags in the van, Pais testified. 

Pais said he identified himself as police and yelled at Shaikh to get out of the car, but when she didn't, he opened the passenger side door and grabbed her wrist to pull her out. He said that's when he noticed she was pregnant.

"We didn't know you were cops," he recalled Shaikh saying. 

At some point, the officers – who were in plain clothes, meaning they were dressed like regular people – put on their police vests and Shaikh's husband, Umar Zameer, was handcuffed and placed on the ground on the driver's side of the car, court heard.

Pais previously testified he saw blood and flesh on the BMW's bumper and told Zameer they had just run over an officer. He then told Zameer he was under arrest on charges of manslaughter and dangerous operation of a vehicle, court heard.

Zameer has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Det. Const. Jeffrey Northrup, who died after he was hit by a vehicle in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall shortly after midnight on July 2, 2021.

Court has heard Northrup's partner stayed with him after he was struck, while Pais and Correa drove after Zameer's car. Aside from Zameer and Shaikh, the couple's two-year-old son was also in the car, court has heard.

During cross-examination Tuesday, the defence suggested that as soon as she heard an officer had been struck, Shaikh repeatedly expressed concern and asked if he was OK.

Pais acknowledged Shaikh inquired about Northrup's condition multiple times but said he didn't know if she had heard his comment about the officer being struck since it wasn't directed at her. He also said he didn't know when she asked. 

Court also heard Pais punched Zameer "in the face area" while the man was handcuffed on the ground.

The officer rejected the defence's suggestion he did so because he was angry, saying he resorted to force because Zameer had not complied with his order to get up. 

“I saw flesh and blood on the BMW. I ordered Mr. Zameer to get up, he didn’t comply … then I struck him, yes,” he said.

“In that situation, there was chaos. I had just seen Jeffrey Northrup … get run over by a vehicle,” there had been a gunpoint takedown and it appeared the parking barrier had already been broken by other vehicles leaving the garage, he later added.

Pais said he was concerned for Zameer's safety given his prone position and the possibility that other vehicles were nearby, and wanted to move him to the other side of the vehicle.

When asked whether striking a handcuffed person was consistent with his training, Pais told the court officers are authorized "to strike people to gain compliance."

Pais also faced questions Tuesday about a 2011 incident in which he and his then-partner were found guilty of professional misconduct. Court heard Pais was found guilty of conducting an unlawful arrest for his role in the arrest of four Black teenagers aged 14 to 16 who were walking in their apartment complex.

He challenged the finding of misconduct but it was upheld on appeal, court heard.

Also Tuesday, jurors began hearing testimony from Correa, Pais's partner. He testified he didn't know there was a child in the car when he decided to hit it with the BMW. He also said Zameer got out of the car with his hands up, and was arrested on a charge of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm.

He said there were two vehicles at the pay gates but no other vehicles or pedestrians around.

Correa and Pais both wrote their notes on the incident on Aug. 4, 2021, court heard. Before that, the pair revisited the parking garage together to refresh their memories, each testified. 

Both have said they did not discuss their evidence with anyone. Under cross-examination, Pais acknowledged he texted Correa during the preliminary hearing process even though he had been told not to contact the other officer. He said the text was only to get a referral for a plumber.

Court has heard Northrup and the other officers were investigating a stabbing when they went into the parking garage. Zameer was not involved in the stabbing, though he and his family had coincidentally walked past the victim earlier that night.

Jurors have heard two drastically different narratives of the events leading up to Northrup's death.

Prosecutors allege Zameer chose to make a series of manoeuvres with his vehicle while plainclothes officers were nearby. The defence, meanwhile, argues Northrup's death was an accident, and Zameer and his pregnant wife were scared because they did not know the people approaching them were police.

The three officers who have testified so far all said Northrup was standing in front of the car with his hands outstretched when he was hit.

The defence argues Northrup had already fallen to the ground when he was struck. Defence lawyers have shown security video that shows the car backing up, turning and leaving, and noted Northrup – a tall, large man – cannot be seen in the footage.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2024.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

Looking for Ontario News? viewed on a mobile phone

Check out Village Report - the news that matters most to Canada, updated throughout the day.  Or, subscribe to Village Report's free daily newsletter: a compilation of the news you need to know, sent to your inbox at 6AM.