Montreal

Pierre Coriolan's sister told by phone her brother had been shot dead by police, inquest hears

Coroner Luc Malouin, who is examining whether the death of Montrealer Pierre Coriolan could have been prevented, admonished Quebec's police watchdog Tuesday for the way the victim's sister learned he'd been killed.

'It's not a humane way to do things,' Luc Malouin admonishes police watchdog on inquiry's 2nd day

Pierre Coriolan was 58 when he was fatally shot by police in the hallway of his Montreal apartment building. (Huffington Post)

Lizaline Coriolan vividly remembers her last visit with her brother, Pierre, the day before he died. 

They met shortly after noon on June 26, 2017, near the corner of St-Hubert and Jean-Talon streets in Montreal.

After chatting for a few minutes, she gave him $150 to repair his car.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, she said. She had been in the habit of meeting him every few weeks, sometimes bringing him a meal or giving him a bit of extra cash.

Two days later, she checked her phone after work and saw she had seven missed calls. 

Waiting for the bus outside Cadillac Metro station, she called back — and got the news from an officer with Quebec's independent investigation bureau: her brother had been shot dead by police.

"I was all alone in the street," she said Tuesday, testifying before a courtroom filled with lawyers representing police and the City of Montreal.  

God, she said, gave her the strength to make it home.

The emotional testimony came on the second day of a coroner's inquest into the death of Pierre Coriolan, who was shot after police responded to reports of a disturbance in his apartment in Montreal's Gay Village.

Coroner Luc Malouin is examining whether Coriolan's death could have been prevented. On Tuesday, though, he took a moment to admonish the independent investigations bureau, known as the BEI.

"We don't announce the deaths of a family member by telephone," he said. 

Addressing Lizaline directly, he said: "And I'm telling you, the message will get to the BEI. It's not a humane way to do things."

On the verge of eviction

Pierre Coriolan, who was 58 when he died, was on social assistance and had a history of mental health problems. 

He was on the verge of being evicted from his apartment and showed increased signs of distress, according to inquest documents.

When asked by the coroner's lawyer if she had noticed he was upset in his final weeks, Lizaline replied that she had not. 

"He was nice to everyone," she said.

Pierre Coriolan had a bachelor apartment in Montreal's Gay Village. (Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes (BEI))

Yolande Coriolan, Pierre's other sister, described her brother as "reserved."

"He didn't have the habit of being angry," she said, telling the coroner that Pierre came to her home for dinner or a visit once or twice a week.

Yolande said her brother had worked as a taxi driver in the 1990s but hadn't held a job for several years.

'Concerned for his health'

Late in the afternoon on June 27, 2017, two neighbours called 911 to report Coriolan was yelling and smashing things in his home. 

One of the callers, Luc White, who lived directly below him, testified Tuesday it sounded like he was in a "rage."

"I was concerned for his health," he said, and perhaps for the well-being of those living on the same floor.

In the 911 recording, White is heard telling the dispatcher Coriolan had mental health problems and was likely alone. 

White told a police officer the same thing when they arrived at the scene, he testified at the inquest. 

Coriolan was holding a screwdriver in one hand and a small steak knife in the other, sitting in his apartment with the door ajar, when police got to the third floor, according to their written statements.

Police say they tried, unsuccessfully, to neutralize Coriolan using a Taser gun, which initially failed to subdue him, as well as plastic bullets, before using their firearms.

He was shot three times — the thigh, the shoulder and, fatally, in the stomach.

What could have been done?

The question before the coroner is whether police could have done more to diffuse the situation.

Inquest documents include guidelines from Quebec's Public Security Ministry on how to do so, including keeping one's distance and speaking calmly.

Pierrre Coriolan was yelling and smashing things in his apartment before police were called to the scene, witnesses told the coroner's inquest. (Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes (BEI))

The six police officers at the scene are set to testify Wednesday.

Quebec's Crown prosecutors' office announced last year it would not lay charges against any of the officers involved, following an investigation by the BEI.

Coriolan's family filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that police were abusive and used unnecessary force.

Virginie Dufresne-Lemire, a lawyer for members of Coriolan's family, said testifying before the inquest was a painful ordeal for Lizaline, who, like Pierre and their sister Yolande, is originally from Haiti.

"It's an impossible situation. She already has been interrogated by the investigator of the BEI. We are doing a civil lawsuit so she was interrogated by the lawyers of the city," Dufresne-Lemire told reporters. 

"It's a very difficult obligation she has to go through."

About the Author

Benjamin Shingler is a journalist with CBC Montreal. Follow him on Twitter @benshingler.

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