The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Quebec, have named Zachary Fairbairn (28) as the man who died during a police foot chase in Gatineau, Quebec on June 21, 2018. The BEI have not publicly named the officers involved in the fatal chase.
Category Archives: BEI
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officer who killed 17-year-old Brandon Maurice has been identified as Constable Frédéric Fortier during the coroner’s inquest into the 2015 killing. An expert in police “use of force” strategies testified at the inquest that the provincial police officer made a number of critical mistakes. A witness to the killing, Chris Houle, who was in the car with Maurice when the teenager was shot has already testified that the shooting “should have been avoided.”
Constable Frédéric Fortier shot the unarmed Maurice at the end of a police chase through Messines, Québec. He and his partner, Constable Dave Constantin, were cleared of criminal wrong doing after an investigation, that was in no way independent and involved Montreal police in 2016.
The inquest has focused on how Fortier approached the car Maurice was driving at the end of a police pursuit. He approached aggressively with his gun drawn and decided to smash the driver’s-side window to open the car door.
Bruno Poulin, an expert with Quebec’s police academy, so not oppositional to police in any way, testified that the encounter should never have ended with that decision. According to Poulin, the officer narrowed his options by approaching the car overly aggressively and expecting he could physically force the driver from the car. A typical thug approach by police who expect they can impose their authority without question and, if necessary, kill to deal with any mess they create.
In Poulin’s words to the inquest: “He put himself in danger” (quoted in 2018). Poulin said it appears that SQ officers need some retraining. We know that training does nothing to change the power police hold in society and the fact that they can kill with impunity as part of the state’s assertion of its monopoly on violence.
In testimony the previous day Fortier acknowledged that he had gotten himself into trouble but said he would not change his decision to shoot.
Brandon Maurice’s family are considering civil action against the police.
Pfeffer, Amanda. 2018. “Expert Witness at Coroner’s Inquest Says Officer Who Shot Teen Made Mistakes.” CBC News. April 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/brandon-maurice-death-inquest-1.4617234
Chris Houle, the person who directly witnessed the police shooting of 17-year-old Brandon Maurice told a coroner’s inquest that it should never have happened. Houle saw the entire interaction from the passenger seat of Maurice’s car. A Sûreté du Québec (SQ), Quebec provincial police, officer shot Maurice as the teen sat in the vehicle’s driver’s seat in the early morning hours of November 16, 2015. The Inquest started in April, 2018.
Said Houle, during his testimony before chief coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier on April 10: “I may not know a lot about law and police processes; I’m not an expert. But this should have been avoided” (quoted in Pfeffer 2018). The young witness testified over a day and a half.
The killing occurred after a police chase ended about 10 kilometers at chemin de la Ferme and rue Patry, close to Lac Blue Sea in the municipality of Messines, Quebec. Houle testified that he and Maurice sat in the car as an officer approached the driver’s side with his gun drawn. At some point the officer smashed the window and reached into the car. Some type of struggle ensued over the opening of the car door. The officer fired his gun at Maurice shooting the teenager at point-blank range.
Brandon Maurice died in hospital. The pathologist who carried out the autopsy testified at the inquest that Maurice died from a fatal bullet wound through this neck.
Family and friends of Maurice have long insisted that police used excessive force during the encounter and have demanded answers about what happened that day and why police acted the way they did. The officer responsible was not charged for the killing, a typical and in no way surprising outcome when police kill civilians in Canada. The state protects the state.
There is no investigation of police in Quebec that could in any way be considered independent or autonomous. Incredibly Montreal police were asked by Quebec’s police “watchdog,” Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), to conduct an investigation after the killiing. This is not independence. Not surprisingly that “investigation” decided not to charge the officer. In fact the Montreal investigators were allowed to testify at the inquest.
Pfeffer, Amanda. 2018. “Police Shooting Witness Tells Inquest Teen’s Death “Should Have Been Avoided.” CBC News. April 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/brandon-maurice-inquest-tuesday-1.4613032
Koray Kevin Celik (28) died during a police intervention at his family’s Île-Bizard home one year ago. On March 6, 2018, his family organized a vigil outside the Pierrefonds police station to commemorate their loved one and raise some troubling questions about police actions, and accounts of their actions, in Koray Celik’s death. Celik’s parents, Cesur and June, say their son needs to be remembered and what happened to him needs to be discussed publicly. And this discussion needs to happen loudly and often until there is some change (Feith 2018).
Koray Kevin Celik, 28, died during a police intervention at the family’s Île-Bizard home one year ago when the young man was experiencing some distress. Said Cesur Celik: “My son was in crisis and was in a vulnerable state. When the police walked in, he was standing. When they left, they carried his body out. He lost his life in their hands, in front of our eyes.” (quoted in Feith 2018).
Celik acknowledged that the parents called the police seeking help and assistance. The call was made a bit before 2 AM. The parents did not want him their son to hurt himself or to leave the house (Feith 2018). They now express regret at having called police at all.
What happened during the police intervention is under investigation. Few details have been made public. According to Quebec’s Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), the body that examines police interventions connected to deaths or injuries in the province, Montreal police responded to a call regarding a distressed man. The official story says that upon arriving at the house in Île-Bizard, Koray Celik became aggressive and suffered a fatal heart attack while police tried to control him (Feith 2018).
Cesur Celik, who says he witnessed the interaction in his home, rejects the bureau’s public version of events. He says four officers “brutally and viciously beat” his son before he died (2018). The family is considering legal action against the Montreal police force. They have tried to see a police incident report, autopsy, or coroner’s report but their efforts have been thwarted at each turn. The lack of information has added to the family’s grief. Says Cesur Celik: “We’ve been living with this nightmare ever since. One year later and there is still nothing. How can that be?” (quoted Feith 2018).
The Montreal police force (SPVM) has refused to comment on what happened the night Koray Celik died. Since June 2016, the BEI has investigated 72 cases. These include 37 fatal police interventions and five deaths that occurred during police detention (Feith 2018).
At the March 6 vigil, family and friends held signs reading : “Justice for Koray”; “We will not go away”; “The law applies to everyone” (Feith 2018).
Feith, Jesse. 2018. “A Year After Fatal Police Intervention in Île-Bizard Questions and Pain Linger.” Montreal Gazette. March 6. http://montrealgazette.com/news/a-year-after-fatal-police-intervention-in-ile-bizard-questions-and-pain-linger
Shooting a Man in Distress After 30 Seconds Ruled “Not Gratuitous” and “Measured” as Cops Who Killed Chad Murphy Let Off
Police in Canada kill a disproportionate number of people in mental distress. They continue to be deployed to engage with people experiencing mental distress despite the fact that history shows that police respond to those situations with a very quick use of lethal force.
In the case of the killing of Chad Murphy (45), it is estimated that from the moment Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officers opened the door to Murphy’s basement apartment in Île-Perrot, it took only 30 seconds for police to fatally shoot him.
On Monday, February 12, 2018, Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions (DPCP) announced it will not be filing charges against any of the officers involved in shooting and killing Chad Murphy on October 2, 2016. The SQ had been notified by Murphy’s sister Sharon that he was distressed and suicidal after fleeing in anger from a family dispute. She said at the time that she made the call to get him help not to get him killed.
Officers allegedly tried to talk with Murphy through his apartment door before opening it with a key provided by a neighbor. The DPCP report says officers saw Murphy sitting on his living room floor with a knife in hand and when he saw the officers he started cutting himself. When he stood up and walked toward the door the police shot and killed him. Thirty seconds to interact with and kill a man.
The DPCP ruled that in shooting a man in distress who was harming himself, after only 30 seconds of interaction, the officers involved did not use excessive force and should not face criminal charges. The DPCP statement said: “A legally acceptable use of force is one that is not gratuitous and is applied in a measured way. The intervention was legal and is based primarily on the duty of the police officers to ensure the safety and security of others.” The report does not say that Murphy was using his knife in a way that threatened anyone other than himself. It does not say how many shots police fired.
This is pure propaganda, copaganda. Shooting someone in distress and harming only himself is described as measured. And it does not show how the safety and security of others, the public for example, was threatened. This decision is the state protecting the state.
The DPCP’s decision to not lay charges in the killing of Chad Murphy is based on the investigation by the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province. The BEI is not independent and relies on police forces for their forensic investigation.
Since June of 2016, the BEI has investigated 72 cases. This includes 37 fatal police interventions and four deaths that occurred during police detention. Of all of the investigations completed and turned over to prosecutors so far, none have led to charges against a single officer. The state does indeed protect the state.
We have written extensively on the lack of proper public reporting of police killings of civilians in Canada, the fact that police control the flow of information and what is released publicly, and the lack of truly independent and autonomous oversight of police in Canada. Not all provinces in Canada have oversight agencies at all to investigate cases of police harm to civilians and those that exist are not truly independent or autonomous. Some, like the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) in Quebec rely on active police force members for investigations.
These facts were put fully, and painfully and violently, on display on Wednesday, February 7, 2018, as the family of Montreal police shooting victim Pierre Coriolan announced that they are suing the City of Montreal over the “brutal and excessive” police intervention in which their loved one was killed by officer on June 27, 2017. The family also released a horrific video of the police killing taken by a neighbor on a cellphone and passed to the family recently. It shows Coriolan being shot approximately 45 seconds into the police intervention. Lawyers for the Coriolan family suggest that the entire direct encounter lasted about one minute and ten seconds, during which time multiple weapons were used against the victim, including after he had been shot by police and was on the ground.
Pierre, Coriolan, a 58-year-old Black immigrant from Haiti, was shot and killed by in the hallway outside his apartment after police reportedly responded to calls about a man yelling and smashing things inside his apartment on Robillard Avenue near St-André Street, in the city’s gay village.
The killing again raises issues of police violence, poverty, racism, and mental health issues. In addition, there have been concerns about the information provided publicly by police and the BEI regarding the killings of civilians by police.
The four minute cellphone video, recorded by the neighbor, an eyewitness to the killing, shows a chaotic scene in the hallway of the apartment building. Officers apparently use plastic bullets, a taser, and their firearms against Coriolan. He was allegedly holding some object, variously described as a screwdriver or a knife.
The BEI have reported in a statement released at the time of the shooting that police first received 911 calls about Coriolan making noise in his apartment at about 7 PM. The cellphone video begins at 7:30 PM. It is not certain from the video how long officers had been on the scene at that point or what their engagement with Coriolan involved up to that point.
The first five seconds of the video are audio only, without recorded video images. The audio records what is believed to be a gun firing a plastic bullet, followed by the crackling sound of a taser having been fired. Five officers then become visible with weapons drawn. They are crowded into the hallway, their backs to the camera. Other officers off-camera can be heard yelling from around a corner in the hallway.
Pierre Coriolan comes into view eight seconds into the video. He appears to exit his apartment and walk toward the officers. Very soon after he moves from his apartment two or three gunshots are heard, but the image is obscured as the neighbor with the camera ducks somewhat into his apartment. When the camera focuses back on the hallway, an officer is heard yelling, “À terre! (Hit the ground!).”
Coriolan is in view, on his knees, with four officers visible, and still pointing weapons at him. The victim is heard telling the officers, in French, “Pas capable (I can’t).”
At that point, one of the officers is heard, incredibly, asking a colleague in French, “Do you have another shot?” After an unintelligible response, the officer yells, “Take the other shot.”
At that point, two shots ring out. It is not clear what has been fired, plastic bullets or live ammunition.
In response to the gunshots, Pierre Coriolan collapses fully on the ground. Only his legs are visible in the frame. Only then is an officer heard to yell, “Knife.”
A first officer approaches Coriolan and kneeling beside him, appears to search for a weapon, rather than offering any medical care or attention. Shockingly, another officer then approaches Coriolan, extends a telescopic baton, and swings it twice with heavy force toward the victim’s arm. Coriolan is heard to grunt in pain.
Officers lower their weapons, and one is heard speaking into his radio to say, “A man, possibly injured by gunshot.” Clearly they knew he had been hit and injured.
The officers are standing talking to each other calmly. One says, “It’s a screwdriver he had.” Another officer says, “No, it was a knife.” Only then are officers heard saying, “He’s injured. He’s hit.”
Coriolan’s legs can be seen convulsing as one officer says the stricken man is still breathing. Another officer responds saying, “No, he’s not breathing.”
The video ends when an officer demands that witnesses in the hallway get back into their apartments. Pierre Coriolan would be pronounced dead later that evening in hospital.
Disturbing Actions Leave Disturbing Questions
Pierre Coriolan’s killing was met with protests and calls for action by community activists and organizers, including Black Lives Matter organizers. Community activists Will Prosper and Maguy Métellus joined the family’s lawyers and Joanne Coriolan, the victim’s niece at the press conference releasing the video and announcing the family lawsuit. The lawsuit was launched by two of Coriolan’s sisters who were not present at the news conference. They are seeking a total of $163,426 in damages.
Prosper, a former RCMP officer, expressed shock and disbelief upon first viewing the video. In his words: “The first question I asked myself is, ‘Why don’t you take the time?’ There’s no rush” (quoted Rukavina in 2018).
Prosper raised the question on everyone’s mind since the killing last year, which is why a man was shot and killed for making noise in his own apartment. As Prosper points out: ”The only thing Pierre was threatening was his own apartment. He was not a threat to anybody else” (quoted in Rukavina 2018).
Prosper was even more stark in his questioning of why a kneeling man was viewed as such a threat. He asks: “What is the threat of a black man kneeling down? It’s a firing squad he’s facing” (quoted in Rukavina 2018).
The only time on the video recording that police even directly speak to Coriolan is when they order him to the ground after he has already been shot. Says Propser: “You see there’s no communication, nothing mentioned to him as he’s kneeling down” (quoted in Rukavina 2018). After the man has been shot and is on the ground police do not even ask after his condition. Instead they hit him with a telescopic baton.
Alain Arsenault, a member of the family’s legal team, said that they have little faith in the BEI investigation and that said a lawsuit is the best available avenue to obtain justice for Coriolan. It may be the only way that the public can find out any meaningful information about the actions of police.
Arsenault said that the decision to release the video was prompted partly by frustration over the slow pace of the investigation and the oversight agency’s refusal to provide updates to the family. These are repeated concerns expressed by family members of people killed by police across Canada.
The video can be found here: https://news.google.com/news/video/ow10u5_zod4/dDnbIQ6E5KSZOqMJZ2vQh0aMMunjM?hl=en&gl=US&ned=us
Rukavina, Steve. 2018. “Family of Montreal Man Fatally Shot by Police Sues Over “Brutal Intervention.” CBC News. February 7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/montreal-video-police-shooting-rcmp-coriolan-1.4523348
BEI Investigating In-Custody Death of Brandon Stephen in Cree Community of Waskaganish (Jan. 2, 2018)
The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), the unit that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Quebec is investigating the in-custody death of 24-year-old father of two Brandon Stephens in a jail cell in the Cree community of Waskaganish. The community is 1055 kilometers northwest of Montreal on the shores of James Bay.
A statement released by the Eeyou Eenou Police claims officers were called to a residence in the community at around 1 PM on Monday, January 1, 2018. They say they found a man identified as Brandon Stephen intoxicated and threatening to harm himself. Police report he was then taken into custody.
According to police, at around 11 PM Stephen informed guards that he was not feeling well. At some point he was transferred to the medical clinic in the community where he died at around 3 AM on January 2.
This is the second police-involved death in an Indigenous community in northern Quebec, in a period of a week.