MONTREAL - People in the Montreal neighbourhood where 18-year-old Fredy Villenueva was fatally wounded weren't waiting for explanations Sunday night. Their fury erupted into a riot in Montreal North, with knots of protesters roaming the streets and setting fire to cars and garbage barricades.
The Montreal riot police squad was called out, and hundreds of officers formed a perimeter four or five blocks away.
Rioters vandalized the local fire station and set several cars outside ablaze. The firefighters were evacuated. A building kitty-corner to the fire station and community centre burst into flames shortly after 11 p.m. Onlookers cheered as a van went up in flames.
Some looters were seen being arrested after 1 a.m. Monday. A police spokesman said two officers and one paramedic suffered non-serious injuries.
Phalanxes of white-helmeted police officers patrolled the streets and the park where Villanueva was shot.
"I just don't understand why the police took my son's life," Lilian Villanueva said Sunday as tears streamed down her face. She could barely speak between sobs.
Their son, Fredy, died in hospital Saturday night after a confrontation with officers near Henri Bourassa Park.
A Montreal police statement said officers felt threatened by Fredy, his brother Dany and a number of friends, which is why they reacted with force. But Fredy's sisters said they couldn't figure out how anybody could have felt threatened by their younger brother. They said Fredy was a low-key kid whose favourite activity was playing video games.
"He was shy. He wasn't the type of guy who would antagonize a police officer," said Julissa, 25. "He didn't like clubbing or drinking beer. He was a quiet guy; he liked to stay in."
The family is still trying to piece together the events that led to Fredy Villanueva's death.
The Surete du Quebec, which has taken over the investigation because it involves Montreal police, remained tight-lipped about the incident.
"I can't tell you what they were doing, we don't even know how many (teenagers) there were," said Sgt. Gregory Gomez Del Prado, a spokesman for the provincial police.
According to Gomez Del Prado, two police officers in a cruiser approached a group of young people gathered in the parking lot behind the Henri Bourassa arena after 7 p.m. Saturday.
Witnesses said police arrived while the group was calmly throwing dice behind the arena, next to a field where children were playing soccer. The witnesses said the police officers singled out Dany Villanueva. They tried to search him and when he resisted, a male officer pushed him to the ground and arrested him, some teens said.
The SQ would not reveal the reason for the arrest. There were conflicting reports about which officer fired the shots.
Claude Laguerre, who said he was one of the young people involved in the incident, said no one in the group made physical contact with the police officers.
"We were six guys and two girls. We approached, but we didn't touch them."
Other witnesses said Fredy and about a half-dozen other young people confronted the police to try to separate them from Dany, who later was placed in the back seat of the cruiser.
Neighbours reported hearing three or four gunshots before the group scattered.
"It turned bad," said Kassem Hamad, 22, who identified himself as a close friend of the victims.
A statement issued by Montreal police late Saturday explained their version of events. The police said the officers were surrounded by youths when they tried to arrest one suspect.
"At one point, the group began to move and a good number of individuals charged toward the police and threatened them," the statement said. "One of the police officers present then fired in the direction of the suspects, striking three of them."
Fo Niemi, co-founder of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, called for a public inquiry into the shooting.
"The use of a gun seems completely unjustified," he said. "We want to know whether this is standard police technique."
The Villanuevas immigrated from Honduras in 1998.
Sunday, they said their faith in their adoptive country had been shaken to its core.
"We thought we were going to be better off," Julissa said. "We thought therewas justice here. We thought the police were supposed to protect us."
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