Cop ’embellished’ account of events leading up to partner’s death: defence

Click to play video: 'Partner of Const. Jeffrey Northrup took the stand at trial for Umar Zameer'
Partner of Const. Jeffrey Northrup took the stand at trial for Umar Zameer
WATCH: Partner of Const. Jeffrey Northrup took the stand at trial for Umar Zameer – Mar 21, 2024

Defence lawyers for a man accused of running over a Toronto police officer suggested Friday the officer’s partner embellished her account of the events leading up to his death because she felt bad about what happened.

Sgt. Lisa Forbes took the stand for a second day at the murder trial of Umar Zameer, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Det.-Const. Jeffrey Northrup. Northrup, 55, died on July 2, 2021, in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall.

Forbes previously testified Zameer’s SUV made five manoeuvres in an effort to leave that night, at some point sending Northrup “flying backwards” as he stood in front of the vehicle with his arms up in front of him. The car then ran him over, getting briefly stuck on Northrup’s large body before taking off, she told the court.

Defence lawyers on Friday showed new security footage from the garage that they said contradicts Forbes’s account. Forbes, who had never seen the video before, broke down in tears and requested a short break before continuing.

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During cross-examination, Zameer’s lawyer suggested to the officer that the video does not show Northrup being struck while standing.

“We didn’t see a six-foot-four, 250-pound-plus man standing in the middle of the laneway bracing for impact before the car hits him. You don’t see that in the video,” Nader Hasan told the officer. The video also does not show the SUV getting stuck on the officer’s body, he said.

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“I couldn’t see him at all in the video,” Forbes answered.

Hasan suggested Northrup was already on the ground immediately in front of the SUV when the vehicle moved forward, but Forbes insisted she had a clear recollection of her partner “standing on his feet” with his arms braced for impact as he was struck.

“Is it possible you’re embellishing this whole thing because you feel bad about what happened?” the defence lawyer suggested.

Forbes rejected that idea.

“There is a very distinct memory in my brain that replays far too often of Officer Northrup standing in front of that car with his arms raised, and I let out a scream, and I’ve replayed that and have wondered if I had time to scream at him to move. But that has repeated in my head since that day,” she said, her voice shaking with emotion.

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“What I’m going to suggest to you is that the replay in your head is not consistent with the objective evidence,” Hasan countered.

Jurors have heard two drastically different narratives of the events that led to Northrup’s death.

Prosecutors allege Zameer chose to make a series of movements with his car while the two officers were nearby, and say the case hinges on why he made those choices and whether he knew the pair were officers. The defence, meanwhile, has argued Zameer did not realize Northrup and Forbes were officers, and he and his wife thought they were being ambushed by criminals.

Court has heard Zameer, his pregnant wife and their two-year-old son had come downtown to do some sightseeing for Canada Day and returned to their car around midnight. The officers were in the garage to investigate a stabbing. Zameer was not involved in the stabbing, though he and his family had coincidentally walked past the victim earlier in the night, court heard.

Earlier Friday, the defence suggested Forbes had lied about how she initially approached Zameer, saying part of her account was “revisionist history.”

Forbes has testified that she and Northrup walked up to Zameer’s SUV and that she identified herself as a police officer at that time.

Hasan suggested she and Northrup in fact rushed toward the vehicle, and that she was much more “aggressive” in her approach than she previously indicated.

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Forbes replied that she and Northrup were walking “with purpose” but “by no means was it a rush or a jog.”

The defence also questioned her reason for approaching Zameer.

Forbes testified the stabbing victim had described the suspect as a heavyset, brown-skinned man with big hair and a long beard, and said one of the reasons she wanted to speak to Zameer was because he was similar to the suspect description. The officer said she had already decided to speak to Zameer when she noticed the similarities, however.

Court was shown a photo of Zameer at the time and Forbes agreed that while he did have brown skin, he did not have big hair and his beard wasn’t long.

Forbes agreed she would have had no legal basis to arrest or detain Zameer, but stressed that was not her intention to begin with.

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