Montreal police ended a confrontation with an armed senior by knocking him down with rubber bullets Wednesday morning, following a 20-hour standoff in a residential district.
Neighbours described 71-year-old Isidore Havis as having an erratic, aggressive personality. Mr. Havis suffers from dementia, his lawyer, Jeffrey Boro, said in an interview.
Barricaded in his family home, Mr. Havis wielded a handgun and fired once at officers, according to police, who said he owned several legally registered guns.
Some media reports said Mr. Havis owned more than 180 firearms.
Mr. Havis has a criminal record for a 2008 incident for which he pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction a peace officer. He was given an absolute discharge.
Mr. Boro said it was a minor incident in which Mr. Havis interfered with a police investigation. He wouldn't give more details.
The incident took place as police in Toronto grappled with the fallout from the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatin, who was tasered and shot nine times by an officer early Saturday after passengers in a streetcar said he brandished a knife and exposed himself to them.
While saying he was grateful no one died in the Montreal incident, Mr. Boro questioned the police tactics, which involved a SWAT team and a dozen provincial and municipal police cars and fire trucks.
Mr. Boro said the deployment made things worse for his client, who was showing in his remarks to them that he didn’t trust police officers.
"He has the onset of dementia and he is not functioning at 100 per cent capacity. This situation has not helped his medical condition."
He added: "Unfortunately, a minor event escalated into what could have been a tragedy for both my client and the police officers."
While initial reports said Mr. Havis is a retired university professor, he and his wife Zipora actually are the long-time owners of a clothing and antiques store on Notre-Dame Street West, in the St-Henri district of Montreal, a family business he inherited from his father, Abraham, in 1980.
Mr. Havis rarely left his property and was aggressive, for example towards dogs on his lawn, said a neighbour, Yael Dayan, who added, however, that she didn't feel threatened.
“He never tried to hurt anyone,” she said. “His wife is very, very sweet and she’s very conscious that he’s ill.”
Around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, police were called to Mr. Havis' house on Guelph Road, in the west-end district of Côte Saint-Luc.
CJAD Radio said that a caller who identified himself as the suspect’s son told them his father had seen Hydro-Québec employees on his property and mistaken them for intruders.
Hydro-Québec spokesman Patrice Lavoie confirmed that two employees were working in the area at the time.
Police evacuated several houses and apartment buildings and set up a perimeter around the Havis house. Four hours into the standoff, the suspect fired at officers and a SWAT agent suffered a bruise on a foot, either because of the gunshot or from hitting an object, police said.
During the night, Montreal media said, police made several attempts to talk to the suspect, with a bullhorn and also by tossing a cellphone onto the porch of his house. After trying to flush him out of his house with irritant gases, Montreal police got help from the Sûreté du Québec in the morning, using a provincial police armoured car to ram down the front door and break windows before hitting Mr. Havis with two rubber bullets around 8 a.m.
Police used a robot vehicle that went inside to check that the suspect no longer held his handgun before SWAT officers moved in and arrested him, said a spokesman, Constable Daniel Lacoursière.
Mr. Havis was taken to hospital for a medical assessment. He had cuts to his bare feet because of the broken glass, Constable Lacoursière said.
He is expected to be charged with uttering threats and with firearms-related offences, said another police official, Constable Anie Lemieux.
She said investigators have obtained a search warrant for the house. Officers spent part of the day removing several firearms -- including vintage bolt-action rifles -- from the property and tagging and photographing them.
"All his guns were under lock and key and stored in an appropriate manner, therefore he had necessary responsibility to keep his weapons, according to the law," Mr. Boro said. "Probably the only weapon they will find that was out of its storage case was the one he used with the thought of protecting himself."