Umar Zameer found not guilty of murder in Toronto police officer’s death

Jurors have found Umar Zameer not guilty of all criminal charges, including first-degree murder, in the death of Toronto police officer Det.-Const. Jeffrey Northrup nearly three years ago.

Zameer and his family members burst into tears when the verdict was read out on the fourth day of jury deliberations.

Zameer had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, after he ran over Northrup with his car in an underground parking garage beneath Toronto City Hall on July 2, 2021. Both Northrup and his partner were in plain clothes, investigating a stabbing that night.

The verdict means the Crown did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zameer intended to kill Northrup, as is required for both a first-degree and lesser second-degree murder conviction.

“I never meant any of this to happen,” Zameer said standing outside the courthouse. “I am sorry for what has happened.”

Umar Zameer, at right, with his lawyer Nader Hasan, at left, outside the courthouse after Sunday’s verdict was read. (Tyler Cheese/CBC)

Zameer said he worried his family had made the wrong decision when they came to Canada, but now he wanted to thank the country for ensuring he received justice in his case.

His defense lawyer, Nader Hasan, said Sunday was not a day for celebration.

“But it is a day for relief, because the system worked as it should,” he said.

Hasan added that it’s important to recognize the court has decided Zameer is not a criminal.

“This was an unfortunate, terrible situation that happened,” he said. “And as a result, an unfortunate and tragic death occurred, but it was not intentional. It was not a criminal act. It was an accident.”

Reacting to the verdict outside the courthouse, Northrup’s wife, Margaret Northrup, said she was “very disappointed” in today’s outcome.

“From day one, all I’ve wanted was accountability,” she said.

WATCH | Police chief, widow of Toronto officer expresses disappointment in Zameer verdict:

Police chief, widow of Toronto officer expresses disappointment in Zameer verdict

Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw and the widow of Det.-Const. Jeffrey Northrup reacted outside the courthouse after Umar Zameer was found not guilty of murder in the 2021 death of the police officer. ‘From day one, all I’ve wanted was accountability,’ Margaret Northrup said.

In a statement issued after the verdict, Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw said the trial has been a difficult time for police.

“While we respect the judicial process and appreciate the work of the 12 citizens who sat on a very difficult case, I share the feelings of our members who were hoping for a different outcome,” Demkiw said.

Jon Reid, president of the Toronto Police Association, said the association will continue to support Northrup’s family and the officers who “bravely” took the stand in this case.

Hasan said the case should be a teachable moment for police and Canadians.

“About how we want police to act, how they should act, especially when they’re in plain clothes,” he said. “I think that some soul searching needs to be done on the part of many folks who were involved in this particular investigation.”

After the verdict was read, the judge apologized to Zameer for everything he has been through during the last three years.

“You are now free,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy said.

A sketch of a courthouse scene. The jury reads its verdict to the justice, a man between two lawyers, and the man's wife, who is pictured in the foreground, crying.
A sketch artist’s rendering of the jury delivering its verdict Sunday. Umar Zameer, pictured on the left, between his lawyers, and his wife, pictured on the far right, burst into tears when he was found not guilty on all charges. (Alexandra Newbould)

The jury also found Zameer not guilty of manslaughter caused by dangerous driving. For a manslaughter conviction, a person must be found guilty of committing an unlawful act that caused death, without having the intent to kill.

Jury deliberations began Thursday evening, after a five-week trial during which Zameer testified that he didn’t know Northrup and his partner were police, instead thinking his family was being ambushed by criminals.

Officers’ testimony contradicted by experts during trial

The two officers approached his car in the parking garage around midnight, where Zameer was with his wife, who was eight months’ pregnant, and their two-year-old son. The young family was preparing to return to their Vaughan, Ont., home after celebrating Canada Day downtown.

Zameer said neither Northrup nor his partner, Sgt. Lisa Forbes, identified themselves as police that night. He said the pair began banging on his car after he locked the doors.

When Zameer tried to drive forward out of the parking space, he was blocked by an unmarked police van. He then reversed out of the spot at an accelerated speed and drove forward to exit the parking garage.

WATCH | What the jury heard throughout the trial:

The case against Umar Zameer, accused in Toronto cop’s death

Umar 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 car in an underground parking garage in Toronto on July 2, 2021. CBC’s Greg Ross breaks down the evidence presented in court.

During the trial, two crash reconstructionist experts called by the defense and the Crown agreed Northrup was knocked down when Zameer reversed out of the parking spot.

The 31-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service was already on the ground in the laneway of the car when he was run over, the experts said.

However, three police officers testified that Northrup was standing in the lane with his hands up when he was run over.

Judge questioned Crown’s ‘morphing’ theory

Several times during the trial, the presiding judge questioned the Crown’s changing theory about what happened on July 2, 2021, at one point saying she didn’t see how the jury could convict Zameer of even the lesser second-degree murder charge.

During legal arguments not heard by the jury, Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy repeatedly raised concerns about the prosecution’s changing narrative about where and how Northrup was struck.

Prosecutors Michael Cantlon and Karen Simone raised new theories after all their evidence had been presented to the jury, including some that were not brought up during their own crash reconstruction expert’s testimony.

One such theory — that Northrup was “clearly visible” to Zameer when he was hit regardless of his position, which itself is in dispute — was abandoned only days before lawyers made their final arguments to the jury, after Molloy said she was struggling to understand Item.

The Crown’s position “keeps morphing,” the judge said Monday during legal arguments over her instructions to the jury.

Arguments and evidence discussed in the absence of the jury cannot be published until the jury is sequestered for deliberations.

Earlier in the trial, after the Crown finished presenting its evidence and while the jury was absent, Molloy noted the discrepancy between the testimony of police officers who said Northrup was standing up when he was run over, and that of the prosecution’s expert.

Molloy pointed out another expert was set to give a similar opinion, that Northrup had already been knocked to the ground by Zameer’s car when he was run over, as part of the defense’s case.

The judge also referred to security footage, shown to jurors, in which an unidentified object believed to be Northrup appears on the ground in front of the car as he is driving forward.

“Let’s just be blunt — I don’t see how they can get to second-degree murder on this evidence because of the expert report and video,” Molloy said.

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