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A man accused of fatally running over a Toronto police officer did not intend to kill anyone and behaved reasonably in the face of what he thought was an imminent threat to his family, defence lawyers argued Wednesday in their final pitch to jurors.

Umar Zameer did not know that the people who rushed towards his car after midnight in an underground parking garage were plainclothes police officers and tried to escape the situation “in the safest way possible,” defence lawyer Nader Hasan said in his closing submissions.

Zameer did not know Det. Const. Jeffrey Northrup had fallen to the ground and could not see him in front of his vehicle because the officer was in the car’s blind zone, Hasan said.

“We all agree that this was a tragedy. It was not a criminal act,” the defence lawyer said.

“I urge you not to compound tragedy with injustice,” he continued. “Mr. Zameer is not a criminal. He’s a husband, a father who was trying to escape what he thought was imminent danger. … ‘Not guilty’ is the only just verdict here.”

Zameer has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. Northrup died on July 2, 2021, after he was hit by a vehicle in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall.

In his closing submissions, Hasan said Zameer’s account is corroborated by, among other things, security footage, physical evidence and the testimony of two crash reconstruction experts, one of whom testified for the Crown.

On the other hand, the Crown’s key witnesses – three officers who saw the incident – lied repeatedly and colluded with each other, the defence lawyer argued.

The prosecution does not have a case for murder unless jurors believe the three officers and “disregard the evidence of pretty much everyone else,” he said.

Hasan also argued the Crown could not address the “elephant in the room,” one of the central questions of the case.

“Why would Mr. Zameer, an accountant in his 30s, a family man who’s never been in trouble before, who was out with his young family to celebrate Canada Day – why would he all of a sudden intend to kill or cause harm to a police officer? To say nothing of the fact that he’s out in his car with his eight-months-pregnant wife and his two-year-old,” he said.

Zameer has testified he didn’t know Northrup and his partner – who were in plain clothes – were police officers and he got scared when two strangers rushed towards his car in the largely empty parking lot shortly after midnight.

He told the court he was trying to drive away quickly to save his family from what he believed to be robbers and he didn’t see anything in front of his car or realize he had hit anyone until after his arrest.

Three police officers who witnessed the incident testified Northrup was standing in the middle of the laneway in front of the car with his hands outstretched when he was run over. Two of them said Northrup fell on the hood and then slid off.

However, two crash reconstruction experts, one of them called by the Crown, told the court they concluded Northrup was knocked down after the car brushed against him while reversing, and was already on the ground when he was run over by it moving forward.

The expert called by the defence said Northrup would not have been visible to Zameer when he was on the ground because he was in the car’s blind zone. He also noted there was no damage to the hood or front of the car, which he would expect to see if a man of Northrup’s stature had been hit head-on.

Court has also seen security footage of the parking garage that shows an unidentified object believed to be Northrup appear on the ground in front of the car as it drives forward in the laneway. Northrup cannot be seen at any other point in the video.

A pillar partially blocks the camera’s view on the left, hiding some of the earlier portions of the encounter, but there is a clear shot of the laneway.

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