Image: Montreal Riot
Peter Mccabe  /  AP
Montreal police stand guard over a person arrested during rioting in Montreal on Sunday. Several hundred police officers fanned out trying to track down youths who set fires in the neighborhood before running off.
updated 8/11/2008 2:22:21 PM ET 2008-08-11T18:22:21

Rioting broke out late Sunday in a Montreal neighborhood where a young man was shot to death by police over the weekend. A police officer was shot in the leg, stores were looted and firefighters were pelted with beer bottles.

Several hundred officers in riot gear fanned out in search of a group of youths who ran off after torching eight cars parked outside a fire station in Montreal North, a multiethnic neighborhood with simmering tensions between residents and police. Fire trucks responding to the call in Montreal North were pelted with beer bottles, while at least three bus shelters were trashed.

The violence erupted following a peaceful community protest against the shooting by police on Saturday of three people, including an 18-year-old man, identified by his sister as Freddy Alberto Villanueva, who died of his wounds.

On Sunday, men and women of all ages crawled through the smashed windows of a pawn shop, a convenience store and a butcher shop, grabbing anything they could. They could be seen running down the street clutching TVs, cigarette cartons and slabs of meat.

Meanwhile, along the residential streets, riot-squad officers were forced to dive for cover at least three times, after blasts of what sounded like gunshots went off around them.

"I had a guy shoot a gun next to me, that's how bad it was," said Patrick Parent, who lives on the street behind the convenience store. "I ran home. It was terrifying."

'Never in real life'
Parent, who has lived in the area for six years, said locals occasionally hear gunshots but that usually the neighborhood is quiet.

"I thought I would see this only on TV, never in real life," he said.

Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafreniere said one police officer was hospitalized after being shot in the leg.

An ambulance technician was hit in the head by a bottle and a second police officer suffered minor injuries, he said. Both were released from hospital after treatment.

Montreal police Chief Yvan Delorme said the mob vandalized three fire trucks, the local fire station and broke into 20 businesses.

Three people were arrested for breaking and entering, one for drug possession and two others for charges still to be determined, he said.

Quebec provincial police have taken over the investigation into the shootings Saturday that sparked the riots.

City police said the officers were trying to arrest an individual in Henri Bourassa Park around 7 p.m. when they were surrounded by a group of about 20 youths.

A few individuals allegedly broke away from the group and rushed the officers.

According to police, one of the officers then opened fire.

The officers were not wounded.

People want answers
Provincial police spokesman Gregory Gomez del Prado said there were numerous witnesses to the incident, including people playing sports or just sitting in the park nearby, he said.

"It's too early to say what happened exactly. We're talking about the death of a man. It's a major investigation."

Villanueva's sister, Julissa, said from nearby Laval that family members want answers.

"We only know what we see in the news, in the newspapers, that's all," she said, breaking into tears as she spoke about her brother, a student who wanted to become a mechanic.

Delorme, the Montreal police chief, said authorities would make efforts to mend the shaky relations between police and the community.

"We're there to listen, to understand what happened (Sunday) night and to avoid these kinds of situations," Delorme said Monday. "We have to feel safe in Montreal."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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