Family speaks out as Montreal recovers from riot
Published Monday, August 11, 2008 6:39PM EDT
The family of an 18-year-old shot dead by Montreal police say they are devastated by his loss, while residents recover from a neighbourhood protest that turned into a violent riot.
Freddy Villanueva was the youngest of five children. His family had moved to the Quebec city from Honduras.
"He was our little brother. He was the baby of the family," his sister Patricia told CTV Montreal on Monday.
Villanueva's brother was with him the night he died, following an apparent altercation with police. Dany Villanueva said officers had called him over and then held him to the ground, and his brother had told them to let him go.
Then he heard gunshots and his brother fell to the ground.
"I saw blood on his stomach and on his side and I couldn't do anything," he told CTV Montreal in French. "I kept saying, 'Take care of my brother, take care of my brother.'"
Villanueva was reportedly shooting dice with friends in Henri Bourassa Park in the ethnically-diverse borough when police attempted to make a routine arrest.
Montreal police say about 20 youths then surrounded them -- several of them reportedly rushing at police.
The Quebec provincial police have taken over the investigation.
Mayor Gerald Tremblay offered his condolences to the family and said it is vital that investigators get to the bottom of what took place Saturday evening in Montreal North.
"I share their pain and suffering in this very difficult time," Tremblay said during a news conference Monday.
"That is why it is essential to shed the light on every detail of this tragic event. I have personally asked the minister of public security Jacques Dupuis to identify the most effective way to ensure a transparent investigation can take place as quickly as possible. And I would like that investigation to be known and very well understood by the community."
Protest becomes violent
Villanueva's death triggered an angry and violent response Sunday night. Vehicles were set on fire and there was widespread looting and violence targeting police and emergency service workers.
One police officer was shot in the leg, while another officer and an ambulance technician received minor injuries. The technician was struck in the head with a bottle, said CTV Montreal's Maya Johnson.
"This morning Montreal's police chief Yvan Delormes appealed for calm in this city after such a tense night," Johnson told CTV's Canada AM.
"(There have been) six arrests so far and several counts of mischief -- up to 39 we're told, 20 break and enters and a lot of looting and vandalism happening last night," Johnson told CTV's Canada AM.
In addition, fire fighters who tried to extinguish burning cars were pelted with stones, three fire trucks were damaged and a fire station had to be evacuated after gasoline was apparently thrown into the station, Johnson said.
Bus shelters were also destroyed by the groups of angry youths.
"This is a group of people that are trying to say something to us and I am willing to listen," Delormes said at a Monday news conference.
Liberal MP Denis Coderre, who represents the riding that includes the ethnically diverse Montreal North, said the situation is tense, but key stakeholders are working towards a resolution.
"It is a very serious situation," Coderre said. "Of course there was some major vandalism but at the same time ... I spoke with many of the citizens and many of the authorities. Right now everybody is talking to each other, so I have a good feeling that we're on the right track."
With files from CTV Montreal