A man has died and several officers were injured after police were called to a rooming house in Montreal where they deployed a Taser.
Quebec provincial police said 41-year-old Donald Ménard died following an altercation with police on Monday evening.
Police received a call about 5:30 p.m. ET on Monday night about a woman suffering from a possible drug overdose at a rooming house near the corner of St-André and Ontario streets.
'If it’s a choice between a gun and a Taser, the Taser is less lethal than a gun.' — Patrick Bolland, owner of Globalshock.org
Police said that at the scene Ménard appeared to be intoxicated and that he attacked an officer, who ended up losing a tooth.
"They tried to find the woman, and there was a lot of people, aggressive people, inside the place and also intoxicated people," said Const. Simon Delorme.
Ménard disappeared from the Pinel Institute, a Montreal psychiatric hospital, on Nov. 10 and provincial police had been searching for him since then.
Code of ethics for Quebec police officers
While the provincial code of ethics for police officers does not specifically refer to Tasers, it does outline acceptable standards and practices when it comes to the use of a weapon.
In past rulings, the Quebec Police Ethics Commission relied on Section 11 of the code to define proper and improper use of Taser guns.
An excerpt from that section is copied below:
11. A police officer must use judgment and exercise care in using a weapon or any other piece of equipment.
A police officer must not:
(1) Show, handle or point a weapon without justification.
(2) Fail to take the necessary measures to prevent the use of a service revolver by anyone other than a police officer.
Several officers were injured while trying to restrain the man. "One man, strongly intoxicated, started to be very aggressive and combative with the police officer. He hit a police officer in the face."
According to Radio-Canada, CBC's French service, the officers resorted to using a Taser after they tried to use batons and pepper spray to subdue the man.
Radio-Canada reported that the man refused to be transported to hospital, but eventually lost consciousness.
Ménard was taken to hospital in critical condition and later pronounced dead.
The woman who police were originally called to help was treated in hospital and is expected to recover, and four officers were treated in the hospital for minor injuries.
Quebec provincial police are investigating.
When should police resort to using a Taser?
Concerns over the use of Tasers have grown in recent years, brought to the forefront by the 2007 deaths of Quilem Registre in Montreal and Robert Dziekanski in Vancouver.
Montrealer Patrick Bolland studies the effects of Tasers and runs the website Globalshock.org.
He said the stun guns should never be used indiscriminately, but if police have no options left, a Taser would be better than a gun.
“If it’s a choice between a gun and a Taser, the Taser is less lethal than a gun.”
According to Bolland, Tasers create a low amperage shock that seems to disturb heart rhythms, especially in people who have psychological problems or who are under the influence of drugs.
“Suspects in an agitated state who are Tasered frequently die,” he said.
But he said sometimes, police have no choice.
"If the police in this case were going to use a firearm on this person … then the use of the Taser would have been appropriate."