Accused played with son in hours before Toronto cop's death

A man accused of killing a Toronto police officer in a parking garage nearly three years ago began testifying in court Tuesday.

Accountant Umar Zameer, 34, is accused of killing Det.-Const. Jeffrey Northup in 2021

Two men look to the side.
Umar Zameer, left, with his defence lawyer Nader Hasan, on March 19. Zameer, who is accused of killing a Toronto police officer in a parking garage nearly three years ago, testified in court on Tuesday for the first time. (Pam Davies/CBC)

A man accused of killing a Toronto police officer nearly three years ago described playing several games downtown with his then two-year-old son in the immediate hours before the incident, during his testimony in court on Tuesday. 

Umar Zameer pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Det.-Const. Jeffrey Northrup. 

The officer died on July 2, 2021, after he was struck by a car while investigating a stabbing in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall. 

Zameer, his wife Aaida Shaikh — who was eight months pregnant at the time — and their two-year-old son were returning to their Vaughan, Ont., home after sightseeing downtown for Canada Day. 

Speaking to the jury for the first time on Tuesday, Zameer, a 34-year-old accountant, described an evening of enjoying the festivities with his young family before Northrup's death.

Originally, the family planned to go to Hamilton that night, where their cousin lives. However, after their second car, a Toyota C-HR, was rented out through a car rental app by a resident who lived downtown, the family decided to change plans, he said. 

Two men in coats walking on sidewalk.
Umar Zameer, left, with his defence lawyer Nader Hasan, walking into court in downtown Toronto on April 2. Zameer addressed the court for the first time on Tuesday, describing a night of enjoying Canada Day festivities with his young family prior to Northrup's death. (Paul Smith/CBC)

Zameer and Shaikh drove downtown separately — Shaikh in their BMW — so that Zameer could first drop off the Toyota at a condo near Nathan Phillips Square. The family then headed out together to enjoy the celebrations, he said. 

After Zameer parked the BMW in the underground parking lot, the family spent time at both Nathan Phillips and Yonge-Dundas squares, before deciding to return to the former, where their child was having more fun. 

Wife took photos throughout the night: accused

Court saw security footage of Zameer from that night crouching behind a pillar downtown, playing what he said was "hide-and-seek" with his son. 

The young family also visited a terrace, where they were briefly joined by one of Zameer's friends. 

In the witness box, Zameer raised his arms repeatedly to mimic how he played with his son on the terrace, lifting him up in the air to coincide with the terrace lights brightening. 

He said his wife took pictures throughout the night on his phone. 

Umar Zameer listens to his wife's testimony during his trial.
Umar Zameer, pictured above, told jurors on Tuesday how he played hide-and-seek and other games with his son before the incident on July 1, 2021. (Pam Davies/CBC)

"I remember when the clock struck 12, that's exactly when we all took a picture with the background of [a] clock tower," Zameer said. 

As they returned to the BMW later in the evening, Zameer said he played another game with his family, calling it a "trolley game." 

He described how he and his wife pushed the stroller back and forth between them so that his son would think the stroller was pushing itself. 

Defence argues cop death was accident

The family was inside their BMW in the underground parking garage when they were approached by Northrup and his partner, Sgt. Lisa Forbes, around midnight. Both officers were in plainclothes at the time, court has heard. 

Zameer was not involved in the stabbing, although he and his family had coincidentally walked past the victim earlier in the night.

Prosecutors allege the officers identified themselves as police more than once as they approached Zameer. 

They allege the accused chose to make a series of manoeuvres with his car, hitting Northrup and crushing him. 

The defence has argued Northurup's death was an accident and that Zameer did not know the pair approaching him were officers. Instead, he and his wife thought their family was being ambushed by criminals, court has heard.

Zameer expected to continue testimony on Thursday

On Tuesday, court saw security camera footage of the family walking between Yonge-Dundas and Nathan Phillips Square around 11.13 p.m., when they walked past a shirtless man. 

"I told her, let's just keep going, we'll just carry on with our plan," Zameer recalled. 

Despite the apparent injury, he did not call 911.

"He was walking normally, as if nothing had happened," Zameer said. "I didn't think ... he was in distress." 

It was not confirmed in court that this man was the stabbing victim. 

Later in the evening while at the terrace with his friend, Zameer said they saw police and fire trucks. Paramedics were carrying someone on a stretcher. 

Image of a police officer in uniform.
Northrup died after being struck by a car in the parking garage at city hall on July 2, 2021. He left behind his wife and three children. (Toronto Police Service/Twitter)

"I remember [my wife] and I talked that maybe it was that person who we saw [earlier]," he said. 

Soon afterwards, the family decided to return back to their BMW. 

"Sometimes it gets sketchy at night, so maybe let's call it a night," Zameer recalled telling his wife and friend.

Zameer, now a father of three, said he grew up in Pakistan. He moved to Malaysia in 2015 for his future wife, he said. In 2019, the family moved to Canada. 

He is expected to continue his testimony in court on Thursday.

Heated cross examination of defence's crash expert

Earlier in court on Tuesday, the defence's crash reconstructionist expert said the Crown was "misleading the jurors" while being cross-examined Tuesday in the trial of a man charged with killing a Toronto cop nearly three years ago.

Crash reconstructionist Barry Raftery previously testified that Northrup was on the ground in the car's blind zone at the time Zameer ran him over, meaning the officer was not visible to the accused. 

Court sketch showing a man testifying and a crown attorney speaking to him.
Crown attorney Michael Cantlon cross-examines crash reconstructionist Barry Raftery during the trial of Umar Zameer on Tuesday. Zameer faces first-degree murder charges in connection with the death of Toronto police Det.-Const. Jeffrey Northrup almost three years ago. (Pam Davies/CBC)

"I'm an engineer, I look at the physical evidence," Raftery said Tuesday when asked by Crown counsel Michael Cantlon whether he had read Zameer's account of what happened on July 2 before coming to his conclusions. 

Cantlon challenged two images of the incident Raftery created in his report that showed a green mannequin, meant to represent Northrup, within the blind spot of the BMW that Zameer was driving that night. 

Raftery agreed the mannequin did not reflect Northrup's frame of six feet, three inches tall and around 300 pounds, saying it was instead used only for "illustrative purposes." 

Later in the cross-examination, Raftery appeared frustrated and said Cantlon was "misleading the jurors" when the Crown prosecutor again referred to the mannequin size.  

"You had the opportunity to pick a mannequin that would have accurately represented the dimensions of Officer Northrup and you chose not to," Cantlon said. 

Rafterty later apologized for his reaction while being re-examined by defence lawyer Nader Hasan, saying, "I get upset when someone suggests I'm not adequately representing something."

Jeff Bassingthwaite, a police crash reconstructionist previously called by Crown prosecutors, told the court he concluded the officer had been knocked to the ground by the car reversing, before he was run over by it going forward. 

However, three officers who witnessed the incident testified Northrup was standing in the middle of the garage laneway with his hands up when he was run over.

Raftery said he had read transcripts of audio statements given by the three officers on the evening of July 2. 


Rochelle Raveendran is a reporter for CBC News Toronto. She can be reached at:

With files from The Canadian Press