Blue Line

Montreal police won’t face charges in fatal 2017 shooting of black man: Crown

MONTREAL — The police officers who fatally shot a black man during a 2017 intervention at an east-end Montreal apartment won’t face charges, Quebec’s Crown prosecutors’ office announced on March 1.

March 4, 2019  By The Canadian Press

The office concluded that the force used by the officers was justifiable given the circumstances.

Pierre Coriolan, 58, was distressed and was holding a knife and a screwdriver when six police officers were called to his apartment in June 2017.

According to a news release from the Crown, police ordered Coriolan to drop the weapons and then tried to use a taser and rubber bullets as he moved toward them. When those were unsuccessful, two officers fired their service weapons.

Following the shooting, other officers used a taser again and a telescopic baton to disarm Coriolan while he was on his knees or lying on the ground. Another officer hit and kicked him, according to the Crown’s summary of the findings, which are based on an investigation by Quebec’s police watchdog.

Coriolan was taken to hospital, where he was declared dead. An analysis showed that he had a high level of an unnamed “psychotropic substance” in his bloodstream when he died.

The Crown noted in its news release that officers are not expected to have perfect judgment when measuring how much force to use under pressure. “Indeed, officers are often put in situations where they must rapidly make difficult decisions,” it wrote. “In that context, we cannot require them to measure the degree of force applied accurately.”

It concluded that officers did not commit a crime.

The man’s family filed a $150,000 lawsuit against the city last year, alleging police were abusive and used unnecessary force in their efforts to arrest Coriolan, who had a history of mental illness.

On Friday, one of the family’s lawyers said she was disappointed but not surprised by the Crown’s decision.

“We believe there were quite serious errors that were committed, so our civil suit continues, and it changes nothing on our side,” Virginie Dufresne-Lemire said in a phone interview.

While she disagreed with the Crown’s assessment of the level of force used, she also said the scope of the Crown and the police watchdog’s mandate is narrow, confined to the moments immediately before and after the officers pulled the trigger.

For that reason, she said, the family’s lawyers are also calling for a coroner’s inquest to examine the larger issue of how police approach people who are vulnerable or experiencing mental health issues.

“Was it right the way they intervened, how they prepared and decided to intervene, the words they used and in what way they were said? Was that the right way to intervene with people in crisis?” she asked.

She said Coriolan’s family is still struggling with the death and the emotionally draining legal process, “which obliges them each time to dive back into the tragedy, the loss, the pain,” she said. She said they did not want to comment on the Crown’s decision but remain committed to the lawsuit against the city.

– Morgan Lowrie

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2019

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