Tensions high in Lac-Simon after fatal police shooting

Quebec provincial police have taken over policing in the small Algonquin community of Lac-Simon near Val-d'Or, Que. after a man was killed in an altercation with the local police force.

Sandy Tarzan Michel identified as man fatally shot by local police Wednesday evening

Sandy Tarzan Michel fatally shot in Lac-Simon by police

7 years ago
Duration 1:30
Quebec provincial police takes jurisdiction in the Algonquin community after a man was killed in an altercation with local police Wednesday night
The Montreal police department will take over an investigation in the small Algonquin community of Lac-Simon, just south of Val-d'Or, Que., after a man was killed in an altercation with local police last night. 
Police set up a security perimeter in Lac Simon following the shooting Wednesday evening. (Luc Berthiaume)

On Thursday, a Montreal police spokesman told CBC investigators were heading to the town, which is about 500 kilometres northwest of Montreal, to take over the investigation into the shooting death of 25-year-old Sandy Tarzan Michel.

The fatal incident comes amid heightened tensions between police and residents, less than two months after a member of the Anishnabe Takonewini Police Service was fatally shot on duty.

At about 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, members of the local force, which is operated by the Anishnabe Nation Tribal Council, responded to a report of a man walking in the street with a knife or another bladed weapon.

"During the intervention of the police, an impact happened with a patrol car and the suspect, and after that shots have also been fired," Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Melanie Dumaresq told CBC News.

A photo posted on Facebook by a resident of Lac-Simon shows the body of the man who was fatally shot, wrapped in linens. (Facebook)
Immediately after the shooting, the SQ was handling the investigation. In Quebec, it is mandated by law for another police force to take over following a police shooting that leads an injury or death. 

After the incident, several dozen people confronted local police, prompting them to call the SQ for backup.

"It's a high emotion type of situation that this community is not used to dealing with ... Incidents from the past have carried over so there's a bit of a build of tension," said SQ spokesman Sgt. Daniel Thibodeau.

Several videos posted on social media captured the tension, as provincial police officers arrived and tried to disperse the crowd. Using a loudspeaker, police are heard instructing the crowd to move so they can get to the injured man.

Three men were arrested in the aftermath of the shooting. 

Police say they could face charges of assault or uttering threats.

'Public security crisis'

In February, a police officer working with the local force, Thierry Leroux, was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute call. 

The member of the community who shot Leroux then committed suicide.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents police officers on the Lac-Simon force, issued a statement Thursday calling for more resources and raising concern about a "public security crisis" in the community. 

Geoffrey Kelley, Quebec's minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, said he would await the results of the investigation before commenting.

"We're going to wait to see the report," Kelley told reporters. "The Sûreté du Québec has taken over the investigation of the incident yesterday, so it's too early today to draw conclusions about this very sad incident."

The local health centre has set up a crisis unit to work with members of the community.

About 1,200 people live in Lac-Simon, which is 500 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

with files from Steve Rukavina and Salimah Shivji