Police ethics committee won't hold hearings on 2008 Fredy Villanueva shooting

The provincial police ethics committee has decided it will not hold hearings into how eight police officers handled the investigation of the controversial police shooting in 2008 that resulted in the death of Fredy Villanueva.

The committee made the decision last week and recently posted the reasons behind it on its website.

According to the four-page document, Paul Larochelle, recently named as Commissaire à la déontologie policière, the office that oversees the committee, ordered a re-evaluation of all cases in September.

Then, on Oct. 3, Larochelle decided to withdraw citations, filed in 2013 by the previous commissioner, against six Montreal police officers and two Sûreté du Québec officers over how witnesses, both civilian and police, were handled following the shooting. For example, one citation alleged five of the officers did not take the necessary measures to secure civilian witnesses, a violation of Quebec’s police ethics code.

Villanueva was killed on Aug. 9, 2008, by Montreal police Constable Jean-Loup Lapointe, after he and his partner approached a group of four young men playing a dice game in a park in Montreal North — a municipal bylaw infraction. The situation degenerated to the point where Lapointe fatally shot Villanueva and later claimed he believed the 18-year-old was trying to disarm him. Quebec Court Judge André Perreault, the man who presided over the lengthy coroner’s inquest into the shooting, characterized it as senseless and criticized the police for how they handled witnesses, in particular Lapointe and his partner, Stéphanie Pilotte.

The commissioner’s office and the police ethics committee operate as separate entities, with the commissioner ultimately deciding what cases are brought before the committee.

If the commissioner later decides to withdraw a citation, the committee has the right to hold hearings anyway but requires “serious motives” to do so.

According to the committee’s recent decision, a prosecutor with the commissioner’s office who evaluated the cases determined, on Oct. 3, it did not have the “clear and convincing evidence” required to prove the allegations made in the citations and decided to withdraw them.

The police ethics committee reviewed the decision and determined “it has no motive to refuse the withdrawal of the citations and nothing allows it to conclude that the commissioner was not aware of the nature of the complaint and the public’s interest in his decision.”

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