New Brunswick

Operation that led to Michel Vienneau's death in Bathurst 'hasty,' officer says

An officer who was part of the operation at the Bathurst train station in 2015 that led to the shooting death of Michel Vienneau testified at an arbitration hearing Monday that the police action was hastily organized.

Fourth day of discipline hearing for Bathurst Police Force constables Mathieu Boudreau and Patrick Bulger

Sgt. George Richard, who was a member of the Northeast Intelligence Unit in January 2015, is shown during a break in his testimony at an arbitration hearing Monday. (Shane Magee/CBC)

An officer who was part of the operation at the Bathurst train station in 2015 that led to the shooting death of Michel Vienneau testified at an arbitration hearing Monday that the police action was hastily organized.

"It was done in a hasty fashion, it was done quickly to get out onto the road because of the train being late," Sgt. George Richard said of the police operation on Jan. 12, 2015.

"We had a small window of opportunity to get out and be mobile as quickly as possible."

Richard was among several officers with the Northeast Integrated Intelligence Unit who set up a surveillance operation at the train station that day based on Crime Stoppers tips that Vienneau was trafficking drugs from Montreal. The tips turned out to be false. 

The hearing follows a recommendation by Bathurst's police chief that constables Mathieu Boudreau and Patrick Bulger be fired over their conduct around the shooting.

Bathurst Police Force constables Mathieu Boudreau, left, and Patrick Bulger are getting a hearing to decide what discipline they should face for the fatal shooting of Michel Vienneau in 2015. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Bulger and Boudreau, members of the intelligence unit, had parked closest to Vienneau's car in the train station lot. Richard said he heard over the radio system that Vienneau and his partner had stepped off the train, took photos of the train and then got in Vienneau's white Chevrolet Cruze. 

Richard, parked nearby in an unmarked van driven by then-RCMP Const. Denis Lajoie, said he heard on the radio a call to move in on Vienneau's car. He said he didn't know why the decision was made to intercept Vienneau. 

Lajoie drove toward the car. Richard said he saw the white car veer into a snowbank.

The Via Rail train station in Bathurst following the January 2015 shooting death of Michel Vienneau. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

"Something had happened, I didn't know what had taken place," RIchard recalled. "Was the target vehicle trying to evade being stopped?"

Lajoie, the second person to testify Monday, said he saw Bulger "seated and trying to get away" while near the front of the white car. He said he couldn't tell if had hit him. 

"It looked like he was trying to avoid" getting hit," Lajoie said.

Richard said he approached the car and noticed the rear driver's side window was shattered. He opened the driver's door and, with Lajoie and another officer, pulled Vienneau out of the car. Richard said the man's colour was wrong and he didn't appear to be breathing. 

He asked another officer, Julie Daigle, to check for a pulse. She didn't find one. 

'He had to shoot him'

Richard said the passenger in the car, Vienneau's fiancée, Annick Basque, was yelling, "What did you do to my man?"

Bulger, a former paramedic, and Lajoie began CPR on Vienneau. Richard noticed blood around Vienneau's chest on his left side. Bulger told Lajoie that Vienneau had been shot, the first time he learned shots had been fired.

Richard testified he didn't know why he was seeing blood. He walked over to Boudreau and asked what happened.

Lawyer T.J. Burke, left, leaves the hearing Monday with Bathurst Police Force constables Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau. (Shane Magee/CBC)

"That's when he told me he had a shooting," Richard testified. "He was running over Const. Bulger, he had to shoot him," Richard said Boudreau told him.

Brian Munro, the lawyer for Bulger, asked whether he recalled Bulger limping. 

"He was hopping, limping," Richard said. 

During cross-examination, Richard described the organization of the surveillance operation at the train station. 

"It was basically a hasty," Richard said before stopping. "It wasn't typical."

Basile Chiasson, the lawyer for the Bathurst police chief, asked when Richard realized there would be an arrest that day. 

"When he said he'd be intercepting the vehicle, all move in," Richard said. 

RCMP Insp. Ron DeSilva, left, and Bathurst Police Force Chief Ernie Boudreau before DeSilva testified at the arbitration hearing Friday. (Shane Magee/CBC)

On Friday, the supervisor of the intelligence unit, testified the unit received two anonymous tips that Vienneau was transporting a "load of drugs" on a train from Montreal to Bathurst. He said the unit usually gathered intelligence into a case file that would then be passed on to a partner police force for "tactical action," such as executing search warrants or making arrests. 

Richard testified the second tip mentioned Vienneau's car at the train station and that he and Basque had been drinking on the train overnight. Basque testified last week she and Vienneau had wine on the train the night before it arrived in Bathurst.

The source of the tip isn't known. 

Basque testified last week she didn't know Boudreau and Bulger were police officers when the shooting happened. 

Boudreau fired four times, hitting Vienneau twice. 

The hearing began last Wednesday and is scheduled to run until Friday. 

Chiasson has previously said that up to 17 witnesses may testify. On Monday, he said up to five officers could testify. But by 5 p.m., testimony from one officer was complete and testimony from a second was continuing. 

Joël Michaud, the appointed arbitrator, noted that the lawyers would be available if the hearing needs to continue on Monday next week. 

Joël Michaud is the arbitrator appointed to hear the evidence and decide what discipline the two officers may face. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Michaud will decide based on the evidence what discipline the officers may face. His decision is binding, though could be subject to judicial review. 

The two officers are suspended with pay from the force.

A coroner's inquest is expected to follow the arbitration hearing. There's also an ongoing civil lawsuit related to the shooting. 

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.