Suspect in Montreal-area shootings was deemed danger to public but released from psychiatric ward
26-year-old Abdulla Shaikh killed by police during operation after being linked to 3 fatal shootings this week
The suspect in this week's three fatal shootings in and around Montreal was released from a mental health facility even though a psychiatrist deemed him a "significant risk to public safety," court documents show.
Those documents, which were obtained by Radio-Canada, also show that Abdulla Shaikh had been previously diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Following recommendations, the Tribunal Administratif du Québec — which handles cases that are related to mental illness — ordered Shaikh to be released in March from a psychiatric facility, under conditions.
The release conditions were imposed to make sure health authorities could monitor Shaikh's progress.
At that time, Shaikh's condition had been improving, the ruling reads. But the tribunal said he could resort to "unpredictable and aggressive" acts if his mental illness worsened.
"Without a legal and therapeutic framework, his situation would deteriorate and bring about the return of the context for dangerous [behaviours]," the tribunal's ruling reads.
The 26-year-old man was shot and killed Thursday morning during a Montreal police operation at a motel in the city's Saint-Laurent borough.
Police believe the 26-year-old man fatally shot two men in Montreal Tuesday night and another the following night in Laval.
Shaikh had had several run-ins with the law, including charges of sexual assault, assault causing bodily harm and uttering threats, according to the court documents. In 2018, he was arrested trespassing at the Montreal airport several days in a row.
In one instance, the court documents show, Shaikh was in a restricted zone at the airport and burned his passport with a lighter. In November of that year, he was deemed to be not criminally responsible for his actions.
Shortly after, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
As part of his release, the tribunal ordered Shaikh to respect the following conditions: live in a home approved by the hospital, follow the recommendations of the team treating his condition, refrain from using drugs, keep the peace and submit to urine tests when asked. The March ruling also gave the regional health board in Laval the authority to tighten the conditions of his release.
The written ruling ends with a mention that Shaikh's case would be reviewed and a new hearing would take place within the year that followed.
Radio-Canada spoke with Shaikh's brother, who acknowledged the suspect's mental health issues but also said he does not believe the 26-year-old was responsible for this week's fatal shootings.
According to preliminary information given to Quebec's police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), Montreal police officers were confronted by a man with a firearm during Thursday's operation. Shots were fired and Shaikh died at the scene.
His death means there are now two investigations: one looking into the three fatal shootings on Tuesday and Wednesday that has now been taken over by the Sûreté du Québec's major crimes unit, and another that will focus on the actions of Montreal police (SPVM) during the operation that killed Shaikh.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the SQ said a big part of its investigation is trying to establish a motive for Tuesday and Wednesday's killings.
Suspect should have never been released, victim's loved ones say
For many, the tribunal's ruling raises questions about how Shaikh's mental health was evaluated leading up to and since his release in March.
The family of Alexis Lévis-Crevier — the 22-year-old who was killed in Laval Wednesday — is having a difficult time understanding why Shaikh was allowed to be released.
"You'd think that the person that had his file in his hands should have seen that he wasn't fit to be outside," said Roxanne Lévis-Crevier, Alexis's older sister.
On Friday, Mélissa Beauchamp, a family friend, stopped by a makeshift memorial that was set up near the scene of shooting.
"He wasn't evaluated properly, if you ask me," Beauchamp told Radio-Canada, adding that her friend's death was "gratuitous."
Both Beauchamp and the victim's sister described Alexis as loving and generous.
"Everyday we would write each other," said his sister. "So I'm really going to miss his presence. I feel it but it's not there physically. My head knows it but my heart doesn't want to admit it."
In a statement, the regional health board for Laval, which oversees the hospital that managed Shaikh's file, offered its condolences to the victims' families. It said could not comment on the suspect's case for reasons of confidentiality.
A spokesperson for the health board said, generally speaking, its responsibility is to ensure a patient is complying with the conditions that were set by the tribunal.
Suspect's release was 'bearable' risk, lawyer says
François Legault, the lawyer who represented Shaikh during the March hearing, said he wonders if police acted hastily in shooting and killing his client.
In addition to offering thoughts for the three victims in Montreal and Laval, he said he was "shaken" by the news of Shaikh's death.
"I'm asking myself a lot of questions. I don't have the answers. I hope to get them one day and know if the [police] operation was carried out a bit too quickly," the lawyer said.
"Did we try every measure to establish a level of communication that was adapted to [Shaikh's] situation?"
Legault described the decision to release Shaikh under conditions as a "bearable" risk based on his progress.
"That's what our work is — it's to accept the risk," the lawyer said. "Every day, we make decisions without knowing what will happen next, but [they're] based on the data that's in front of us."
Legault also acknowledged that he had not spoken with his client since the tribunal's ruling.
With files from Radio-Canada