Tag Archives: poverty

Shocking Video of Pierre Coriolan’s Killing by Montreal Police Released as Family Sues City

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 Video

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

 

Further Reading

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


Killer Quebec Cop Simon Beaulieu Let Off by Courts After Driving Over Guy Blouin

The state protects the state. Killer cops are rarely charged in Canada. And when they are, they are typically acquitted, even in cases in which they have obviously acted in a dubious, reckless, or murderous manner.

Quebec City police officer Simon Beaulieu backed his police car over Guy Blouin on September 3, 2014, killing the 48-year-old. Beaulieu used this lethal force against Blouin for no other reason than a baseless suspicion that Blouin had stolen a bike. This was apparently a case of class-based police profiling of a working class person in a working class neighborhood. Blouin had, in fact purchased his bike. Officer Beaulieu was charged in October 2015 of criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing death after he struck and killed Blouin.

On Friday, January 12, 2018, killer cops Beaulieu was found not guilty on both counts by Quebec Court Judge René de la Sablonnière. A not surprising result, no matter how unjust.

De la Sablonnière said the elements of proof presented to him did not show without a reasonable doubt that Beaulieu’s actions that day were dangerous, despite the fact that he sped backwards the wrong way on a one way street and drove over a cyclist who had, in fact done nothing wrong and posed no threat to the public or the officer. The judge concluded: “This was a sad and unfortunate accident” (quoted in Page 2018). But actively driving backwards over someone on a bike is not an “accident.”

The judge reached his conclusion despite the fact that the Crown prosecutor’s expert witness was a Sûreté du Québec crime reconstruction expert (another cop) who testified the police cruiser was going 44 kilometers per hour when it struck Blouin. The judge simply decided to side with the defense version of events which posed the police cruiser’s speed at 22 kilometers per hour. Why side with defense (posing a self-interested estimate) against one provided by a police expert (usually believed unquestioningly in cases against civilians)? The answer is that the state is always predisposed to protect the state in cases of police harm to civilians, under even the most egregious circumstances.

Incredibly, De la Sablonnière said Beaulieu made sure the coast was clear before backing up. This despite that obvious case that it was not clear—as evidenced by the fact that he ran Blouin over. How could he have ensured the coast was clear? Then the judge blamed faulty ABS brakes, a scenario only raised by a defense promoted and provided witness. Said de la Sablonnière: “He could not foresee there was a problem with the brakes” (quoted in Page 2018). But why was he speeding backward toward someone on a bicycle anyway? That is the question.

Throughout his ruling De la Sablonnière repeated that in order for a person to be found guilty of criminal negligence, his actions had to be significantly out of step with what is considered to be normal behavior. But he made sure to stress that normal or expected behavior had to be considered differently for police officers than for civilians (see the contradiction there—normal defined as different for some).

Stuart Edwards, a member of a citizens’ committee from the working class Saint-Roch neighborhood where the accident happened, pointed out that the reasoning behind the ruling is hard to accept (Page 2018). And clearly it is for anyone not ready to accept class-profiling of poor ad working class people or to treat police in a privileged manner within a legal system that otherwise brags of “equality before the law” (yes, we know that is a myth).

Said Edwards, from the committee formed in response to Blouin’s killing and who was present in court at each step in the trial: “That’s a judicial impunity for a policeman, because he’s a policeman. I don’t buy that. I’m personally disappointed. I don’t accept this — I think it’s wrong” (quoted in Page 2018).

As should we all. And Edwards noted that the committee is very much concerned with the effect the not guilty ruling will have in the community. It validates the exertion of lethal force by police against people in a poor and working class community under any circumstances and  with impunity.

The city’s “police brotherhood” confirmed that concern saying the court decision recognizes that society must give special consideration to police officers. That sounds a lot like a threat.

 

Further Reading

Page, Julia. 2018. “Quebec City Police Officer Acquitted of All Charges in 2014 Death of Cyclist.” CBC News January 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/verdict-police-officer-guy-blouin-trial-1.4483566


Racism, Poverty, Mental Health, and the Montreal Police Killing of Pierre Coriolan

An intersection of racism, poverty, mental health distress, and police violence has once again had a  deadly outcome. The 58-year-old man shot multiple times and killed by Montreal police has been identified as Pierre Coriolan, a Black male of Haitian background who was know to suffer mental health issues. It has now been further revealed that Coriolan was facing eviction from the apartment he had been living in since 2008 on July 1, 2017, and that this had understandably greatly distressed him. The eviction order was issued against Mr. Coriolan by the Quebec rental board on June 1 according to Claudine Laurin, director general of la Fédération des OSBL d’habitation de Montréal, an organization of subsidized housing apartments. That a subsidized housing association would evict someone over mental health issues is troubling.

Police were supposedly responding to a call that Mr. Coriolan was breaking things in his apartment when they showed up and shot him. It has not been stated publicly why police chose to shoot someone multiple times for smashing his apartment but the earlier mentioned intersectional factors offer something of an answer, particularly the engrained violence of police. When Urgence-Santé arrived at the scene of the shooting around 7:30 PM, Mr. Coriolan was in cardiac arrest. He was taken to hospital and died at about 9:45 PM.

Neighbors have said that they sometimes heard Mr. Coriolan screaming and plates breaking in the apartment but insist that he did not bother them and they understood that he was not well. They did not fear him and were not disturbed by him. Neighbors expressed shock over the police actions.


Amleset Haile Identified as Woman Killed by Toronto Police

The woman killed by Toronto police on January 2, 2017 has been identified as Amleset Haile. The 60 year-old native of Ethiopia was living at a home on St. Clarens Avenue, a Houselink home for people with mental health and addiction issues, when police killed her. Amleset Haile’s name has only been released publicly now. While the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency responsible for investigating cases of civilians harmed by police in Ontario, is investigating the killing it has not released her name.

Police arrived at the home near Bloor and Lansdowne Streets in west Toronto at 4:45 AM on January 2 in response to a report of an emotionally distraught woman threatening suicide. Only 15 minutes later, about 5 AM, Amleset Haile was wheeled out on a stretcher, not moving, her neck held in a brace. The woman would die two  days later in hospital after being taken off of life support.

Many questions remain unanswered in the month following her death at the hands of police. And family, friends, and neighbors want answers. Among the questions are why a home for people with mental health issues sis not have trained staff available to assist a distraught woman. Another question concerns why such a home would call police first rather than health care providers. Other questions involve what exactly police did to the woman and why and how did she sustain severe trauma to her body within 15 minutes of police activity. The SIU has not confirmed any police claims about the incident.

Friend Jennifer Cox witnessed part of the incident and believes Haile was in fear and running from police. She does not believe the frail woman was strong enough to lift herself up to jump from a window or balcony. Cox, like others, wonders if the situation involving her friend could have ended differently had a mental health caregiver  been called and responded instead of police.

The Toronto Police Department does have Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCIT), roving units made up of a specially trained police officer and a mental-health nurse. Despite repeated recommendations and calls coming from coroner’s inquests these crisis teams are not available 24-hours a day. And none are available between 11 PM and 6 AM, what can be desperate overnight hours.

In the view of Steve Lurie, executive director of the Toronto branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, there should be an expansion of hours of specialized mental health units. As he puts it: “If the call was ‘we think someone is suicidal,’ it makes more sense to bring mental health professionals to bear if they are available” (quoted in Gillis 2017).

On the whole far more resources should be put into independent mental health sources and resources in cities across Canada. Yet public funding is overwhelmingly given to police departments, at the expense of mental health care, harm reduction, support services, health care services for poor people, etc. Police departments continue to  make up the greatest part of city budgets while mental health funding and resources are slashed.

Amleset Haile is remembered by friends and the community organizations she was active in as generous, caring, and kind. She contributed to her communities through groups like Houselink and Sistering, a group for homeless and poor women in Toronto.

 

Further Reading

Gillis, Wendy. 2017. “Friends Seek Answers as SIU Probes Death of 60-Year-Old Toronto Woman.” Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/02/20/friends-seek-answers-as-siu-probes-death-of-60-year-old-toronto-woman.html


Hamilton Police Target Brother of Police Victim Tony Divers After He Criticizes Them

Police are vindictive. This characteristic of vindictiveness comes to the fore powerfully, along with other regulars secretiveness, defensiveness, and self-righteousness in situations where police respond to critics when they have killed someone. This vindictiveness was clearly on display on January 12 in Hamilton, Ontario when police arrested Edward Divers moments after he made a presentation at the Hamilton Police Services Board critical of police actions in the killing of his brother Tony Divers in September of 2016.

This vindictiveness is emphasized by the fact that Edward Divers was arrested on an 11-year-old warrant for a failure to appear. The use of failure to appear charges to criminalize people is a scandal in Canada where it is routinely laid against poor, homeless, and street involved people who may lack resources to ensure appearances at court appointed times or who have irregular schedules. Growing numbers of people are being detained solely on the basis of failure to appear charges. In the Divers case the Crown actively opposed his release but he was finally released on bail.

The family believes they have been specifically targeted by police. And any observer might well ask why and under what circumstances the police investigated Divers and came across the decade-old warrant. A reasonable conclusion is that they went searching for anything on Edward Divers knowing of his criticisms of police and intention to present at the Police Board meeting.

Divers has been living with sisters in Hamilton since October 2016, shortly after his brother’s killing. Despite this he was not arrested until he came forward to criticize police and made application to speak at the Police Board. Divers criticism ahs extended to the chief who he has suggested acts more like a politician than a human in addressing police use of lethal force.

Police Board member Councillor Terry Whitehead, justified police by saying blandly: “They have a responsibility to protect the public” (quoted in Bennett 2017). Yet it is not clear how the public is in need of protection for a failure to appear.

Divers’ sister, Yvonne Alexander described the operations police put in place to apprehend the failure to appear suspect. In her words: “They had police at every exit unbeknownst to us during the meeting. Then as soon as we walked over the threshold out of city hall, five cops arrested him. They wouldn’t tell us why” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

We can surmise that it had everything to do with a grieving brother simply daring to question a force that has killed his brother. And which is used to acting vindictively, viciously, with impunity. They do it because they can.

 

Further Reading

Bennett, Kelly. 2017. “Grieving Brother Criticizes Police, Gets Arrested on 11-Year-Old Warrant.” CBC News. January 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/grieving-brother-criticizes-police-gets-arrested-on-11-year-old-warrant-1.3934145


Jimmy Cloutier Identified as Man Killed by Montreal Police at Old Brewery Mission, January 6, 2017

The 38-year-old man shot and killed by Montreal Police on Friday, January 6, 2017, has been identified as Jimmy Cloutier, a homeless man who made use of shelter services at the Old Brewery Mission. The Old Brewery Mission  reported that Cloutier was a long-time client who had attended the shelter especially for meals and changes of clothing. Shelter director Matthew Pearce said that Cloutier had participated in a program at Maison Claude-Laramée for homeless people with mental health issues, a program run jointly by the shelter and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (CBC 2017). Cloutier had no attended the shelter for four years after completing the program. Pearce reported that over the past year, Cloutier had been a “fairly frequent visitor” and seemed fine the day of the shooting, stopping by the cafeteria to get coffee (CBC 2017).

Surveillance camera video from the police killing of Cloutier shows the victim tossing a cup of liquid, presumed to be coffee from the shelter, on the ground before bending over, apparently to set something else down, before then picking up a bag and walking out of the view of the camera (CTV Montreal 2017). Cloutier is pursued by several police officers clearly holding firearms. The man was shot and killed only seconds later. Police claim that he was armed and made some “aggressive gesture” at them, but this has not been independently confirmed.

Indeed homeless people on the scene were upset that the police had used lethal force against Cloutier and deployed it so quickly. They have asked why no alternatives were attempted first. Police became aggrieve with homeless people on the scene who merely raised questions about the actions taken by police. Those wondering why police chose not to use less-lethal options have continued to raise concerns. According to Milosz Janda, the Old Brewery Mission social counsellor: “They just want to find out what was the reason for such behaviour? Why was it done that way? Why weren’t other possible approaches there?” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017).

Cloutier is the fourth homeless person known to have been killed by Montreal police officers in the past few years. This fact is not lost on Old Brewery Mission director Matthew Pearce. He points out the awful history of police engagement with poor and homeless people. According to Pearce: “Four incidents of confrontation with the police, and four deaths. Not injuries – deaths. I have to feel that in each of those there were other options that could have been pursued” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017). He suggests that police are too fearful and stressed out by homeless and street involved people.

The circumstances of the police killing of Jimmy Cloutier are all too familiar for family members of other homeless people killed by Montreal Police. Pierre Magloire’s brother Alain was shot and killed by police two years ago. Magloire’s response to this latest killing was dismay. In his words: “I was, like, ‘Again? Oh my God.’ How come we are at the same place we were two, three years ago?” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017). He echoes the belief that police are too panicked in dealing with people who may be experiencing distress: “They are not ready to deal with someone. They are getting afraid very fast” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017).

These killings are extreme forms of the poorbashing that police regularly inflict on homeless people. It extends from habitual police practices of harassment, intimidation, bullying, and violence. It reflects police perspectives that view homeless people as “problems” or unworthy victims, or detritus.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “Video Shows Final Moments of Old Brewery Mission Client, Shot to Death by Police.” CBC News. January 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/old-brewery-mission-shooting-victim-identified-1.3928900

CTV Montreal. 2017. Questions Raised by Homeless Shelter after Deadly Police Shooting.” CTV News. http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/questions-raised-by-homeless-shelter-after-deadly-police-shooting-1.3235204


Montreal Police Aggressively Assail Homeless People after Killing Man Outside Shelter

On Friday, January 6, 2017, Montreal police shot and killed a man outside of the Old Brewery Mission. As if inflicting this trauma on homeless people who witnessed police violence was not enough, police then decided to become aggressive with clients of the shelter. It is suggested that the victim of the police shooting had been a client a of the Mission at various points over the course off 11 years.

According to Matthew Pearce, the Director General of the Old Brewery Mission, police became aggressive with people upset by the use of lethal force. Pearce relates: “I was told there was an incident where someone made a critical remark to the police. And the police reacted with some degree of aggression” (quoted in CBC News 2017). The violent response by police to even mild criticism from the public is too common and raises questions about police views on the communities they claim to protect and serve. Pearce suggests that the response was inappropriate. In his words: “We feel that the reaction that the police had to that remark was excessive and I’ll be following up with Montreal’s police chief” (quoted in CBC News 2017).

Pearce noted too the harm that can be done by actions such as the aggressive police targeting of shelter clients. He notes: “Our role is to reduce tensions at all times so it is a concern to us when third parties like the police are inside our building. We don’t want them to contribute to the creating of issues that we then have to work to resolve” (quoted in CBC News 2017). Yet this sort of behavior is too common among police, particularly where homeless and street involved people are concerned.

The Mission’s Director General is now working overtime to ensure that people on the street are confident that the mission is a safe place. According to Pearce: “It’s essential that people, when they come inside the mission, they are leaving the street behind so they are coming to a place of respect of dignity and of security” (quoted in CBC News 2017). A coroner’s investigation earlier suggested that police need improved training when dealing with people who may suffer mental health issues following the killing of a homeless man more than two years ago (CBC News 2016). Psychologists are working with people traumatized by the police action.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “Old Brewery Mission Seeks to Reassure Clients after Fatal Police Shooting.” CBC News. January 7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/old-brewery-mission-reassures-clients-after-police-shooting-1.3926230

CBC News. 2016. “Montreal Police Need Better Training to Deal with Mentally Ill, Coroner Says.” CBC News. March 7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/police-mental-illness-training-coroner-report-1.3479916