Thirty years ago, on Nov. 11, 1987, an unarmed, 19-year-old black man was fatally shot in the head by a Montreal police officer.

His name was Anthony Griffin.

His death was a watershed moment for police relations with the black community in Montreal.

It mobilized the community to put pressure on authorities to answer serious questions about the shooting and examine the way they related to Montreal's different ethnic communities.

That process, some would say, is ongoing.

These are a few key moments in that journey.


November 11, 1987

Around 6:30 a.m., police receive a call from a taxi driver that a passenger in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce did not pay his $27 fare. That passenger is Anthony Griffin. Police arrive at the scene, and after determining someone with the same name is wanted on other charges, the officers arrest him.

Police car

Griffin was shot in this parking lot, located at the back of Montreal police Station 15 on Mariette Avenue in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. There is now a school where that station once stood. (Radio-Canada)

When they arrive at the police station, Griffin tries to flee. He is unarmed. Const. Allan Gosset yells at him to stop and turn around, which he eventually does, but Gosset shoots Griffin in the head. The young man is taken to the Jewish General Hospital, where he is pronounced dead around 11:45 a.m.

Both Gosset and Montreal's chief of police say the gun went off by accident. Regardless, Gosset is suspended without pay.

November 20, 1987

Allan Gosset is charged with manslaughter.

Allan Gosset courtroom sketch

Gosset always maintained he shot Griffin by accident. (CBC)

November 21, 1987

More than 2,000 people attend a march in Montreal to protest against Griffin's shooting. Many express their anger that Gosset has been charged with manslaughter instead of murder. 

November 24, 1987

Quebec's human rights commission opens an inquiry into the relationship between police and ethnic communities, headed by lawyer Jacques BellemareBellemare says there is clearly a sense of "malaise" between police and visible minorities.

Anthony Griffin inquiry

The five-person inquiry team was led by lawyer Jacques Bellemare, second from right. (CBC)

February 15, 1988

Wearing a grey suit and blue tie, Gosset shows up to the Montreal courthouse for the beginning of his trial. The courtroom is packed as the prosecution's first witnesses testify.

February 24, 1988

Gosset is found not guilty of manslaughter. Griffin's parents launch a $1.6-million civil suit against the City of Montreal and Gosset

The family was ultimately awarded $25,000. 

February 27, 1988

More than 700 people from across Montreal participate in a protest march, walking from Trenholme Park to Station 15 on Mariette Avenue, where Griffin was killed.

Montrealers protest following acquittal of police officer who fatally shot unarmed black man1:37

July 8, 1988

Montreal's police chief, Roland Bourget, fires Gosset, saying the decision was a consequence of his actions. There's been a lot of public pressure on Bourget to fire his officer, but he says his decision would have been the same regardless of that pressure.

Montreal police chief

Bourget said public pressure had nothing to do with his decision to fire Gosset. 'We judge the facts, and we judge the consequences of those facts.' (CBC)

August 1989

Gosset successfully challenges his dismissal from the Montreal police service and is reintegrated, although he doesn't remain a police officer for long.

1991

The Quebec Court of Appeal orders a new trial for Gosset, citing the trial judge's error in instructing the jury. In September 1993, the appeal court's ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

April 1994

Gosset is acquitted of manslaughter for a second time.