Michel Vienneau, a 51-year-old man from Tracadie, New Brunswick, was shot and killed by Bathurst police officers Mathieu Boudreau (now 28) and Patrick Bulger (now 38) outside the Bathurst VIA Rail station on the morning of January 12, 2015. Despite serious questions about police killing of an innocent man under questionable circumstances, in which police had no “reasonable and probable” grounds to arrest, charges against the officers were dropped by provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman. Now that the Crown prosecutor has chosen not to appeal, the publication ban on evidence presented during the officers’ preliminary inquiry has been lifted. Emerging details raise further questions about the killer cops’ actions and the judge’s decision not to try their cases.
Police intercepted Vienneau as he arrived by train from a Montreal vacation with his common-law partner, Annick Basque. Police were acting on an unconfirmed and unverified anonymous tip that Vienneau was carrying an unspecified “load of drugs” back from Montreal with him. An RCMP investigation following Vienneau’s killing found that the tip was completely false. Vienneau not carrying any drugs, and he had no previous record with police. He was completely innocent of the claims made anonymously against him, yet police killed him shortly after encountering him. Constable Boudreau fired four shots at the victim who was inside his car at the time.
It seems that there was some pressure on Constable Bulger to make a big bust, and a concern that he might have missed it. When the tip came in just before 10 AM that morning, a supervisor is reported as saying to Bulger, “you missed a load this morning.”
Six police officers attended the Via Rail train station in Bathurst in three unmarked cars to intercept Vienneau. Curiously, they did not take the opportunity to arrest Vienneau immediately but instead waited until he and Basque disembarked the train, picked up their luggage and entered their vehicle.
Basque’s account of the police attempt to arrest Vienneau differs greatly from the one provided by the officers. She says that she did not even know that the men accosting them were police officers. When Bulger exited his car with a gun in his hands, she reports that Vienneau tried to drive by him, moving slowly. Basque suggests that when she heard gunshots her first thought was that the men were “going to kill everyone.” Not realizing that they were police officers, she fought against her arrest until she recognized some uniformed officers.
The Crown’s case raised the fact that the police had no “reasonable and probable” grounds to arrest Vienneau in the first place because the tip police were acting on was unreliable and unverified. Details released reveal that the preliminary inquiry heard that less than an hour elapsed between the time police received the tip was and the time that they arrived at the train station. In fact, the tip was not investigated by police and, incredibly, several officers had not even read it fully.
In the decision of February 24 , 2017, provincial court Judge Dugas-Horsman stated that she simply did not feel Boudreau and Bulger had acted illegally. It seems that Judge Dugas-Horsman made several contortions of logic to let the police off. First, the judge found that ‘”not having reasonable and probable grounds’” for an arrest did not make for an unlawful arrest. She then said that technically an arrest never happened because, well the police killed Vienneau before he was fully under arrest (even though he was “technically” detained in his vehicle). The judge then gave officers another excuse, suggesting that officers have the right to stop vehicles under the Motor Vehicle Act. Judge Dugas-Horsman then went further offering the copaganda excuse that anyone disobeying a police order to stop (as Bulger says he did without independent confirmation of the order or whether Vienneau ever heard it if it were given). According to Dugas-Horsman (in full cop defense mode): “This failure to stop heightens the suspicion of a police officer, who is then entitled to wonder why the person is not stopping,.” The state protects the state and goes out of its way to do so in protecting killer cops.
The only testimony presented at the preliminary hearing, apart from that provided by Annick Basque, was provided by several police officers. The Vienneau family has raised questions about this. They ask why none of the civilians who were present at the train station were asked to provide their versions of what they witnessed that day. The family has also asked why no one has bothered to investigate where the anonymous, and false, tip came from in the first place.