Blue Line

‘Stay with us’: Quebec coroner’s inquest in officer’s death hears from colleagues

March 13, 2024  By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

Mar. 13, 2024, Montreal, Que. – Officers who were involved in the operation last March that resulted in the deaths of a Quebec provincial police sergeant and her killer offered emotional testimony Wednesday about how the fatal events played out.

William Berrouard, a Quebec provincial police patrol officer, told a Quebec coroner’s inquiry he was taken by surprise when Isaac Brouillard Lessard attacked him with a knife as he tried to arrest him for uttering threats and violating probation.

On March 27, 2023, Brouillard Lessard seriously injured Berrouard and fatally stabbed Sgt. Maureen Breau before being shot dead by police in his apartment building in Louiseville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

“It happened fast but my thoughts slowed down,” an emotional Berrouard said. He had just read Brouillard Lessard his rights when, in a fraction of a second, he was stabbed in the head with a kitchen knife. “I didn’t know if I was dying because I wasn’t sure about the severity of my wound.”


Berrouard took refuge behind a mattress in the hallway and heard his colleagues open fire, killing the 35-year-old Brouillard Lessard.

Another officer, Constant Perreault, told the inquiry he had been standing next to the apartment door with Berrouard when he noticed Brouillard Lessard reach for something behind the door. His instinct was to retreat immediately.

“Every day I come into work, I ask: ‘Why did I get away from there?’” Perreault said, noting that if he hadn’t moved, he might be dead today.

Perreault testified that he heard Berrouard yell out. As he took refuge in a stairwell, Breau, who was also on the stairs, moved toward the commotion and was stabbed. Perreault and fellow officer Frédérique Poitras then opened fire, killing Brouillard Lessard.

“I think about it every day: could I have done something else?” Perreault said. “We practice scenarios at the (police) academy … but when it happens in real life … it’s violent, it’s bloody. I don’t wish it upon my worst enemy.”

Berrouard didn’t see Breau, 42, being stabbed, but he followed as Poitras helped her outside. As Breau crumpled on the sidewalk, Berrouard recalled trying to help her while managing his own wounds. “I grabbed Maureen’s neck, I shouted: ‘Stay with us! Stay with us!’” Berrouard said.

Berrouard testified he and three other officers — including Perreault — had visited the apartment three days earlier after Brouillard Lessard’s parents reported that their son was in psychosis and his mental health was deteriorating. He said on that day, the four officers agreed Brouillard Lessard was cooperative and did not pose an imminent threat, so there was no reason to detain him.

On the day of the deaths, it was decided that Berrouard would make the first contact with Brouillard Lessard. He agreed with the coroner that his encounter with the suspect three days earlier likely gave him a false sense of confidence going into the March 27 arrest attempt.

The inquiry has previously heard that Brouillard Lessard had been found not criminally responsible because of mental illness five times for offences in 2014 and 2018. He had also spent a year at a Montreal psychiatric hospital and been followed by the province’s mental health review board — the Commission d’examen des troubles mentaux — since 2014.

He had also been subject to conditions since April 2022 after getting an absolute discharge and probation for a violent assault on an apartment concierge.

Last month, Quebec workplace health and safety inspectors told the inquiry that officers didn’t plan properly or assess the risk before attempting to arrest Brouillard Lessard. But the three officers said Wednesday there was an exchange of information beforehand and what Perreault called “a plan to intervene with the information that we had.”

Poitras said the officers did not draw their guns ahead of the attempted arrest. “It was an arrest, we do a lot of them,” she said. “There were four of us, and never did we think a knife was going to be used.”

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