The parents of a Quebec man who killed a provincial police sergeant last March had tried to get him help in the days leading up to the attack because of how seriously his mental health had deteriorated.
Those details came to light on Monday during the opening day of a coroner’s inquest into the deaths of Sergeant Maureen Breau and Isaac Brouillard Lessard, who was shot dead by police moments after he allegedly stabbed the officer with a kitchen knife.
Sgt. Breau was killed on March 27 while trying to arrest Mr. Brouillard Lessard, who had a history of mental-health problems, in Louiseville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal. She and three other officers were dispatched to the suspect’s apartment after he had allegedly uttered threats and broke probation.
Another officer was seriously injured in the knife attack, suffering a skull fracture and stab wound in the head.
Two responding provincial police officers fired at the 35-year-old 19 times, with 11 bullets striking him, a pathologist testified Monday. Sgt. Breau was pronounced dead at a hospital just after 11 p.m.
Late last month, the Crown said no criminal charges would be laid against the two officers who shot and killed him.
On Monday, the inquiry presided over by coroner Gehane Kamel heard that Mr. Brouillard Lessard had been sending threatening texts and making phone calls to his mother three days before the attack.
Patrick Michaud, an investigator with Quebec’s independent police watchdog – Bureau des enquetes independantes – testified about the spate of messages, as well as other texts between the mother and a relative in whom she confided that her son was in psychosis.
“If he calls, you can call the police,” the mother texted a family member. “He’s living in Louiseville and he doesn’t have money to get around, so no worries.”
On March 24, his mother and father both called 811 – a provincial health line – and 911 to have their son arrested and placed into care, fearing he could be a danger to others. That night, four provincial police officers paid a visit to Mr. Brouillard Lessard’s apartment – two of them would be back for the deadly encounter three days later.
Mr. Michaud said the officers didn’t arrest Mr. Brouillard Lessard on March 24, adding the 35-year-old was calm and admitted to making the threats. The investigator testified that police had determined they did not have reason to arrest him or have him hospitalized.
But Mr. Brouillard Lessard continued making threats against his mother, and his father called 911 less than an hour after police left.
Mr. Michaud noted in his testimony that between March 24 and March 27, Mr. Brouillard Lessard called his mother 43 times and sent her 481 text messages.
On March 27, the day of the fatal stabbing, a maternal uncle called police to report that Mr. Brouillard Lessard had also made threats against him.
Mr. Michaud testified that the uncle called Mr. Brouillard Lessard’s mother and asked, “What do I do with this?” The investigator said the mother responded, “Call the police, that’s what you have to do, he has to go to the hospital, he needs treatment.”
Mr. Brouillard Lessard had been followed by Quebec’s mental-health board – the commission d’examen des troubles mentaux – since March, 2014. His next date before that body was scheduled for April 4, 2023.
The inquiry heard that police had four interactions involving Mr. Brouillard Lessard between late December, 2022 and the night the sergeant was stabbed to death. The first one was on Dec. 30, 2022, a few days after he had moved to the small Quebec town and had an altercation with another tenant in his rooming house over a missing cat.
Police made no arrests as neither man wanted to file a complaint, but a provincial police officer issued an internal bulletin to fellow officers in the district to “act with caution” regarding Mr. Brouillard Lessard, and noting that he had a history of violence against health care workers.
Mr. Brouillard Lessard had been found not criminally responsible five times for offences in 2014 and 2018. He had also spent a year at a Montreal psychiatric hospital. His family had requested a first psychiatric consult in 2013.
In April, 2022, Mr. Brouillard Lessard had been granted an absolute discharge and two years’ probation after assaulting an apartment concierge.
The public inquiry is taking place in February and March at the courthouse in Trois-Rivieres, Que., halfway between Montreal and Quebec City.