Man in stable condition after being shot in head at Maniwaki courthouse
MONTREAL — An altercation at a Quebec courthouse that left an 18-year-old man in hospital with a gunshot wound to the head is raising questions about security at the province’s courthouses.
The young man was listed in stable condition Thursday, a day after he was shot after fighting with a special constable at a small courthouse in Maniwaki, Que., about 130 km north of Ottawa.
Franck Perales, the head of the union representing courthouse constables, said his organization has been calling for more security in courtrooms across the province.
“For two or three years the union has been ringing the alarm,” he said in an interview. “We’ve had meetings with the government and concerned parties to inform them on the lack of manpower, especially in smaller courtrooms or those (outside big cities).”
Quebec’s police watchdog released a statement Wednesday saying the 18-year-old — who has been identified as Steven Bertrand — managed to seize the constable’s baton and allegedly used it to strike the officer over the head at the courthouse.
The constable then took out a gun and fired it, hitting Bertrand at least once in the head, the statement said.
Perales believes the incident could have been avoided by having more than one special constable on duty.
“Since there was no backup, no reinforcement, no support, he had to manage alone, and nobody helped him,” Perales said.
A bystander uploaded a video to YouTube purporting to show the incident. The video shows someone in uniform grappling with a man in a room lined with chairs, who is eventually joined by several other uniformed agents.
Moments later, the video shows an officer seemingly pointing a gun and shooting once towards a target that is off-camera, followed by people screaming and crying.
Perales said the video showed the constable had called for help and had not received adequate support from the people nearby, whom he believes to be private security guards and youth support workers.
He said the union has already begun legal action against the province over the use of private security guards in courthouses in place of special constables, who are subject to the Police Act and work under the same code of ethics as police officers.
Perales said he doesn’t want to blame the private security officers, who in his opinion simply don’t have enough training to intervene in similar situations.
Bertrand’s mother, Julie, wrote on Facebook that her son was stable and the bullet hadn’t hit his brain.
“He is strong and he is fighting for his life,” she wrote late Wednesday.
On Thursday, she posted photos that showed him in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes and wearing a neck brace, his eyelids purple and swollen.
A spokesperson for Quebec’s independent police watchdog added the constable, who was also injured, was out of danger.
Esther Tremblay said investigators left the scene at about 5:30 a.m. on Thursday and the investigation was ongoing.
In Quebec City, Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said that as a mother and a lawyer, she was “profoundly touched” by the news of the shooting.
Vallee, who has practised law in the region, said there are occasional outbursts at the Maniwaki courthouse but never anything of the magnitude of Wednesday’s incident.
“Sometimes, like in many courthouses, there are emotions that overflow,” she said following a caucus meeting. “But something like that has never happened there.”
- Morgan Lowrie
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2018
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