Montreal police fatally shoot Black man in NDG, watchdog investigating death

A Black man in his 30s is dead after being shot by Montreal police officers in NDG early Thursday. The province's police watchdog says the man had a knife when police arrived at the scene.

BEI says man was holding a knife when police arrived at Côte Saint-Luc Road and West Hill avenue

Investigators are getting help from Quebec provincial police forensics specialists. (Jean-Claude Taliana/CBC)

A 41-year-old Black man is dead after being shot by Montreal police officers responding to a call about a person in crisis in NDG early Thursday. 

The shooting happened just before 6 a.m. at the corner of Côte Saint-Luc Road and West Hill avenue.

Guy Lapointe, a spokesperson for Quebec's police watchdog, the BEI, confirmed Thursday evening that the victim was a Black man. He did not provide any more details about his identity or what happened.

The BEI is investigating the shooting. So far, it has disclosed that officers responded to a 911 call about a man in distress and found someone who was holding a knife and approaching their vehicle.

Police reported that officers remained in their vehicle until they noticed the man approaching the driver of another vehicle. They said the officers shot the man after he charged toward them with the knife still in hand.

The BEI did not specify how many officers opened fire. Eight of their investigators will investigate to determine exactly what happened.

The BEI steps in whenever someone is killed or injured during a police operation. 

Lapointe tweeted Thursday evening that BEI investigators are searching for the driver of a bus or minibus, who may have witnessed the shooting. 

'This can't keep happening'

A man in his 30s is dead and one police officer was taken to hospital and treated for shock after a police shooting in NDG this morning. (Franca Mignacca/CBC)

Max Stanley Bazin, of the Black Coalition of Quebec, questioned the use of force by police. 

"It's clear to me that a police officer is able to immobilize an individual who has only a knife, whereas as [police officers] are armed with several weapons," Bazin said in an interview.

"This can't keep happening. You're not going to tell me that when someone in crisis has a knife the solution is to kill them. That's just not how it works."

Bazin also questioned the BEI's neutrality, saying there is a lack of representation of people of colour in its ranks and pointing to its track record which has resulted in few charges against police officers.

Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery reacted to the news that the victim was Black, expressing her condolences to his family and loved ones. 

"My heart is aching and I, too, am angry," Montgomery said in the emailed statement. 

"In CDN-NDG, we have a sad and tragic history of police violence against Black men. The senseless killing of people of colour needs to end. Systemic racism is undeniable. It is present in the SPVM and in all facets of our society."

Montgomery pointed to the police killing of Anthony Griffin, who died almost exactly 33 years ago, on Nov. 11, 1987, outside an NDG police station. Griffin's death sparked protests and outrage.

She also referred to Nicholas Gibbs, a 23-year-old Black man police shot in NDG in 2018 after they responded to a call about a fight. 

Calls for change followed previous cases

Montreal police have been under scrutiny following a report released last fall which revealed officers were at least four to five times more likely to stop Black people, people of colour and Indigenous people than white people.

This summer, in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, Black Montreal police officers wrote an open letter to their union demanding its leaders acknowledge systemic racism exists in the force. 

Earlier this year, there was an inquest into the police shooting death of 58-year-old Pierre Coriolan, who was Black. He was in his apartment when police responded to a call from a neighbour in 2017. The dispatcher had relayed to police that the man had mental health problems and was alone.

A report published in 2016 after another police shooting of a Black man in crisis, Alain Magloire, two years prior, called on officers to receive better training on how to deal with people with mental health issues.

In 2019, the SPVM committed to having all its patrollers complete a one-day course by 2022 focused on how to de-escalate situations involving "vulnerable" individuals.

With files from Sarah Leavitt