Expert witness at coroner's inquest says officer who shot Quebec teen made mistakes

Sûreté du Québec lawyers are holding up a coroner's inquest into the 2015 shooting death of Brandon Maurice to decide if they want their own expert witness to counter the criticism heard Thursday.

Sûreté du Québec lawyers hold up final recommendations while they consider a counter witness

Coroner Luc Malouin during the photo opportunity as the inquest began. He told reporters the testimony may help make sure a similar incident doesn't happen again. Maurice's mother, Dominique Bernier (middle), said she's satisfied with the information that came to light. (Radio-Canada)

An expert in police "use of force" strategies told a coroner's inquest examining the 2015 shooting death of west Quebec teen Brandon Maurice the provincial police officer made a number of critical mistakes.

The actions of Sûreté du Québec Const. Frédéric Fortier are under the microscope after he shot the unarmed 17-year-old at the end of a police chase through Messines, Que.

The officer and his partner, Const. Dave Constantin, were cleared of criminal wrong doing in an independent police review in 2016.

SQ officers Frédéric Fortier (right) and his partner Dave Constantin (left) testified by video conference at an inquest into the 2015 shooting death of 17-year-old Brandon Maurice. The actions of Fortier, who shot the teen, are the focus of the inquest recommendations. (Radio-Canada)

At a coroner's inquest Thursday, the scrutiny was on how Fortier approached the car Maurice was driving once the pursuit ended, with his gun drawn, as well as his decision to smash the driver's-side window to open the car door.

It was then that the teen began to drive forward, leaving the officer's body hanging out of the car, his legs within inches of the tires.

"When I decided to fire my gun it was clear it was me or him," Fortier told the inquest this week.

A Quebec coroner's inquest is hearing testimony about the death of Brandon Maurice, who died in hospital after being shot by a Quebec Provincial Police officer Nov. 16, 2015. (Facebook)

'He put himself in danger'

Bruno Poulin, an expert with Quebec's police academy, said it should never have ended with that decision.

The officer narrowed his options by approaching the car too aggressively, expecting he could physically force the driver out of the car.

"He put himself in danger," Poulin told the coroner.

Poulin also suggested the SQ consider retraining officers on how to safely approach drivers in high-risk scenarios.

The conclusion led lawyers representing Sûreté du Québec, the police union and the officers into a huddle, to decide whether it was necessary to present a counter expert witness. 

Lawyers representing the two officers, the police union and the Sûreté du Québec (front, left to right), refused to give comment to reporters following the hearing. They will decide whether to present their own counter witness to the "use of force" expert who found the officer put himself in danger. (Radio-Canada)

The option was left open, with deputy chief coroner Luc Malouin offering lawyers 30 days to decide before he closes the inquest and writes his recommendations. 

Officer's regret

Earlier in the day, Fortier himself testified via video link that while he stood by his decision to shoot the teen, he regretted the way he had gotten himself in trouble. 

Speaking directly to Maurice's mother, Dominique Bernier, Fortier said he also regrets the pain he's caused her and the family. 

Fortier said he was off duty for 16 months because of injuries to his legs and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

An expert in police "use of force" told the inquiry the police officer put himself in danger in the way he approached the teens following a 2015 car chase that ended in the municipality of Messines, Que. (Roland Carrier/Radio-Canada)

'He deserved better'

Bernier, who pushed for the inquiry, was unmoved, telling reporters Fortier's remorse comes three years too late.

While she was satisfied the inquest shed light on a number of issues, she intends to continue her fight for accountability, she said. 

The family are exploring civil action.

"That's what I promised my son at the funeral home," said Bernier through tears outside the hearing at the Gatineau courthouse. "And I have confidence that I'll be able to keep my promise, because he deserved better."  

Brandon Maurice's mother Dominque Bernier had been fighting to have an inquest examining her son's death. (Radio Canada)

Malouin told reporters the inquest raised a number of issues that will be part of his report, which is expected by the fall.

"For anybody who followed this inquiry, a lot of recommendations came forward to help police do better and protect lives in the future," he said.  

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