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Quebec coroner's inquest goes ahead as family of slain teen, victims drop out

MONTREAL - A coroner's inquiry into a police shooting last August that left a Montreal teen dead is going ahead even if his family and other victims don't want anything else to do with the proceedings.

MONTREAL - A coroner's inquiry into a police shooting last August that left a Montreal teen dead is going ahead even if his family and other victims don't want anything else to do with the proceedings.

Fredy Villanueva, 18, was killed while Montreal officers were trying to arrest his older brother Dany.

Denis Meas and Jeffrey Sagor Metellus were struck by police bullets at the same time.

On Monday, lawyers told coroner Robert Sansfacon that Meas, Metellus and Dany Villanueva and his family will testify at the inquest but will no longer be interested parties.

The other shooting victims said they can't afford a lawyer and the family says it is upset that legal fees for everyone aren't being footed by the Quebec government.

And the family, Meas and Metellus say they are upset the inquiry will not study the broader issues of racial profiling, police accountability and youth poverty.

Earlier, Francois Daviault, a lawyer representing the coroner's office, told Sansfacon he wanted to ensure that any interested parties have access to legal representation.

"Not only must justice be served, but it must be seen to be served," Daviault told Sansfacon.

But Sansfacon decided after a rocky morning of twists and turns that the inquiry would go ahead.

Bruno Duchesne, the lead Quebec provincial police investigator into the Aug. 9 incident, took the stand and said four shots were fired - all from the gun of Jean-Loup Lapointe - with two striking Fredy Villanueva and one each hitting the other two men.

Villanueva's mother, Lillian, was expected to be the first witness to testify Monday, but a letter filed by lawyer Pierre Panaccio indicated she was suffering from depression and could not attend.

She appeared later, but only to accompany Panaccio to confirm the family's withdrawal from the process.

Family lawyer Peter Georges-Louis said the family remains concerned about the fairness of the inquiry and that it was not the right place to discuss the circumstances surrounding Villanueva's death.

Since the inquest was called, the Villanueva family and various other groups have pulled out.

"It's not just about money," Georges-Louis said.

"There's more to it. There's a deeper question about the intervention of the police officer, the question of racial profiling and the situation in Montreal North in general."

.The Quebec government agreed to pay for a lawyer for the Villanueva family, while Lapointe, fellow officer Stephanie Pilotte, their union and the police force are represented by four lawyers.

Premier Jean Charest has steadfastly refused to create a broader public commission.

"I want the inquest to go ahead," Charest said in Quebec City. "Our view has always been quite simple: we need to know what happened and this inquest needs to happen.

"Judge Sansfacon can conduct the inquest in the way he best sees fit and we will deal with whatever recommendations he will make."

About 40 witnesses have been subpoenaed to testify, including the victims, the police and others who were present last summer.

The inquiry was called after prosecutors said there would be no charges against the officer who shot Villanueva. They concluded the officer acted with justified force under the circumstances.

In the aftermath of the shooting and the riot that followed in Montreal North, the Villanueva family filed a $990,000 civil suit against the city and the police.

Meas and Metellus have also sued for $810,000.

 
 
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