Montreal

Coroner probes death of Pierre Coriolan, Montreal man shot by police in 2017

A coroner's inquest into the 2017 death of Pierre Coriolan, who was fatally shot by police, began Monday with the release of troves of documents and photos, along with audio recordings of the 911 calls that brought officers to the scene.

'Can we do things better to make sure people who have problem do not die?' asks lawyer for Coriolan family

Traces of blood and a small steak knife are seen in the hallway where Pierre Coriolan was fatally shot by Montreal police in 2017. (Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes (BEI))

A coroner's inquest into the death of Pierre Coriolan, who was fatally shot by police, began Monday with the release of troves of documents and photos, along with audio recordings of the 911 calls that brought officers to the scene.

"There's someone in distress, he's in the middle of destroying everything in his home," a neighbour of Coriolan is heard telling a dispatcher on June 27, 2017.

The dispatcher asks if Coriolan had mental health problems.  

"Yes, yes, yes, certainly," the caller replies. "A thousand times."

Coriolan was ultimately shot by police three times — once in the stomach, which would prove fatal, according to a pathology report, in the thigh and the arm — in the hallway outside his apartment in Montreal's Gay Village.

According to documents, Coriolan had been approaching police with a screwdriver in one hand and a knife in the other when he was shot by two officers.

Police had unsuccessfully tried to neutralize Coriolan using a stun gun, which didn't properly discharge, and plastic bullets before using their firearms.

Coriolan was pronounced dead later that evening in hospital.

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

Six Montreal police service (SPVM) officers were involved in the intervention.

A toxicological analysis showed that Coriolan had a high level of cocaine in his blood. He had a history of mental illness.

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

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

The stun gun used by Montreal police. (Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes (BEI))

On Monday, the 16th-floor room at the Montreal courthouse was packed with lawyers, representing the city, the officers involved and the police union.

Coroner Luc Malouin reminded the audience the goal of an inquest is not to assign blame but to shed light on what happened that led to Coriolan's death.

Was protocol followed after shooting?

Julien Turcot, the lead investigator in the case for the BEI, outlined the procedure the watchdog followed in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

Virginie Dufresne-Lemire, a lawyer for Coriolan's family, had questions about that procedure — especially when it came to the Montreal police officers involved.

Dufresne-Lemire said she will look for clarity on whether police broke rules by speaking with lawyers or union representatives before they met BEI investigators.

More broadly, she wants the inquiry to yield recommendations that will help police better respond to people with mental health issues.

"We want to understand better the causes and the circumstances of the death," said Dufresne-Lemire.

"Can we do things better to make sure people who have problem do not die?"

Family members, the police officers at the scene and an eyewitness who recorded a cellphone video of the altercation, previously been made public, are among those expected to testify at the inquest.

Last month, Dufresne-Lemire called on the province to pay for their service, arguing they had a right to legal representation.

She said the province had provided a $5,000 stipend, hardly enough to pay for the weeks of work leading up to the inquest, never mind the hearings themselves.

About the Author

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

With files from Simon Nakonechny

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