A Montreal police officer has been charged in the death of Bony Jean-Pierre, who was shot dead during a drug bust in March 2016.

Christian Gilbert is accused of manslaughter in the death of the 46-year-old man. 

Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) announced the charges in a news release Wednesday. Gilbert, who is now suspended with pay, was released with a promise to appear on July 6.

Jean-Pierre was shot in the head with a plastic bullet on March 31, 2016, while trying to flee from police during a drug raid in Montreal North. He died a few days later of his injuries.

A total of 11 people were arrested in the drug bust. 

Bony Jean-Pierre

Bony Jean-Pierre, 46, died after he was shot in the head with a rubber bullet while fleeing police in a drug raid. (domainefuneraire.com)

The charges against Gilbert come following an investigation by Quebec provincial police. The SQ took over the case, as the law at the time required another police service to investigate any operation in which a police firearm was discharged.

The BEI, the province's independent investigation unit which now oversees such incidents involving police, had not yet been set up when the probe into Jean-Pierre's death was launched.

The spokesperson for the DPCP said it doesn't matter which agency spearheaded the investigation.

"All that matters is whether there is enough evidence," said Jean-Pascal Boucher, adding that now it is up to a judge or jury to move forward with the case.

Montreal police say they will not comment on the case.

Rare for officer to face charge

Since 1999, only nine incidents that led to the death or injury of civilians by police in Quebec have resulted in charges against an officer.

Activist Robyn Maynard from the Justice for Victims of Police Killings said the charges against Gilbert are a small step in the right direction after the death of Jean-Pierre, a black man, raised larger issues such as racial profiling.

"We haven't seen any systemic ways of addressing the factors that actually led to the death of Bony Jean-Pierre, such as the extreme levels of really racist violence, of racial profiling," said Maynard.

Shooting led to Montreal North protests

The shooting heightened tensions between police and the community in Montreal North.

About 100 people organized a vigil and march after Jean-Pierre's death in April 2016. The event began peacefully, but erupted in violence later when some protesters began targeting shops and vehicles, police say. 

Montreal North protest

Cars were set on fire after the peaceful event turned violent in Montreal North. (Radio-Canada)

Some of the protestors vandalized cars, set fire to a bank and threw projectiles at the local police station.

The march coincided with what would have been the 26th birthday of Fredy Villanueva, who was shot and killed by police in 2008 after officers moved in to break up an illegal game of dice in a park.

The union representing police officers condemned how the riot was handled, claiming that officers were given orders to stand down as the event degenerated. Police Chief Philippe Pichet defended the response, saying that police had taken a less visible approach.

In June 2016, Montreal police announced that no charges would be laid in connection with the protest.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story had Bony Jean-Pierre's first and last names reversed.
    May 24, 2017 12:40 PM ET
With files from Elias Abboud