Friday, August 15, 2008

COBP Communique on the Murder of Freddy Villanueva (Montreal)

Communiqué by the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP)

Justice for Freddy Villanueva, the 43rd Montreal police killing in 22 years!

Montreal, August 13, 2008 -- On Saturday August 9, 2008, at about 7pm, a police officer from Station 39 fired four bullets that injured two youth and killed Freddy Villaneuva, 18, in Montreal-Nord. The Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP) offers its condolences and solidarity to the Villaneuva family who are beginning a difficult journey that we hope will lead to the truth and real justice. We offer our solidarity as well to members of the community, and in particular to the families of the two injured youth, Denis Meas, and Jeffrey Sagor Metelus who is still in hospital.

The death of Freddy is part of a long history of repression, abuse and brutality by the Montreal police. What happened is unjustifiable. The police know that they committed an enormous error. They are trying to hide the facts, speaking of twenty youth, when eyewitnesses assert that there were five or six. The police say they were attacked when witnesses assert that they saw no direct confrontation between the police and the group of youth. Four bullets were shot at youth who were not armed and who were reacting to a scene of police brutality that was happening in front of their own eyes. We can't be surprised that people have no confidence in the police and revolt.

As per usual, the Montreal police (Service de police de la ville de Montréal, SPVM) and their union (Fraternité des policiers et policières de Montréal, FPPM), in complicity with the Quebec Provincial Police (Sureté de Québec, SQ), will do all they can in their power to clear the police officer that unjustly killed the youngest son of the Villanueva family. It's unacceptable that police investigate other police officers in such sensitive cases. Police organizations are in solidarity with each other, which is not difficult to prove. During a press conference organized by COBP in 1996, a former SQ investigator, Gaëtan Rivest, confirmed tampering an investigation to the benefit of Dominic Chartier (a Montreal police officer who killed Yvon Lafrance in 1989). He explained that such practices are common within the different police services in Quebec. So, it's not shocking that killer cops are systematically cleared by their colleagues.

The police officers involved in the Saturday evening incident have yet to be questioned, although 30 other witnesses have so far been questioned. This manner of proceeding clearly shows the lack of transparency and impartiality in the investigation led by the SQ. If we trust previous experience, we can expect that this investigation will end by clearing the accused officers. Previous history shows us some facts from which to draw some lessons. Of the 43 cases documented by COBP, 2 police officers have been charged (Alan Gosset who killed Anthony Griffin in 1987 and Giovanni Stante who killed Jean-Pierre Lizotte in 1999) and they were both acquitted. In addition to officers Gosset and Stante, three other officers have been charged after a police killing:

- Police officer Marcovic killed Paul McKinnon, 14, on October 25, 1990. He received 45 days in jail for dangerous driving causing death in 1995, because he didn't show remorse to the family of the victim. He appealed the decision.
- After the beating death of Richard Barnabé, 38, on December 14, 1993, charges were laid against five officers. One officer was acquitted but four others were found guilty of assault causing bodily harm on June 27, 1995: officers Pierre Bergeron, Louis Samson, André Lapointe and Michel Vadeboncoeur. They rejoined the Montreal police force. In 2006, the dismissals of Bergeron and Samson was confirmed in appeal by the Police Ethics Committee.
- After the death of Martin Suazo, 23, on May 31, 1995, police lieutenant Pablo Palacios was charged with obstruction of justice for hiding facts during a police investigation. But on September 14, 1995, the decision to not lay any charges against officer Michel Garneau, who shot and killed Suazo, was announced.

As for the so-called "transparence" of the SQ investigation, we can't count on that either. In the Mohamed Anas Bennis case, killed on December 1, 2005 by police officer Yannick Bernier, the investigation report has still not been made public more than two-and-a-half years later.

Sunday's riot was a clear expression of the dissatisfaction of an entire community. Youth and others are fed up being targeted by the police, and being constantly harassed for the colour of their skin, age, and clothes. The people who participated in the uprising on Sunday did not come from street gangs and were not criminals, as expressed by Yvan Delorme, chief of the SPVM. Rather, they were residents of the neighbourhood and the surrounding area and live daily police repression and discrimination. They sounded alarm bells that must be heard. The Mayor and the SPVM chief must assure that police abuses will stop. At the very least, they should suspend the police officers involved in the death of Freddy Villanueva. For his part, the Minister of Public Security, Jacques Dupuis, must change the law so that police no longer investigate other police officers. There must be a public and independent police inquiry into the events of last Saturday, without waiting more than two-and-a-half years like the Bennis family. Finally, the police involved must be charged criminally so that they answer publicly for their acts.


The Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP)
514-395-9691 *

Source: "From Anthony Griffin to Mohamed Anas Bennis: 40 people killed by the Montreal police in 20 years (1987-2006)", pamphlet by COBP available by request by e-mail.

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