The suspect in Monday’s killing of a Quebec police officer is a man who had been released from a psychiatric facility, where he was treated as a result of violent incidents for which he was found not criminally responsible.
The officer, Sergeant Maureen Breau of the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force, was fatally stabbed while she and a partner tried to arrest a man for uttering threats in the town of Louiseville, 110 kilometres northeast of Montreal. The suspect was later shot dead by other officers.
Sgt. Breau was a veteran with more than 20 years of experience. She had two young children and was married to another SQ officer, an investigator in nearby Trois-Rivières.
On Tuesday, Louiseville Mayor Yvon Deshaies, who had spoken to the police, identified the suspect as Isaac Brouillard Lessard, who had arrived in town about four months ago.
Mr. Brouillard Lessard, 35, has a court file dating back to 2013. It includes records of multiple counts of assault and uttering threats. On nine of those charges, he was found not criminally responsible because of mental disorders.
He had initially been hospitalized in October, 2012 after attacking police with a dumbbell and claiming that he was being persecuted by the Calabrian mafia. He was later charged with threatening to kill family members. And he was also charged with assaulting health care personnel.
Public records show that he was treated in a forensic psychiatric institute. A November, 2019 review board decision granted his transfer to a regular hospital. The board noted that his mental state had stabilized and that he had been able to go out on weekends without problems.
The decision noted that “the accused’s risk of violence no longer requires the supervision of a secure environment like the institute.”
In a February, 2022 decision, a review board allowed him to remain in the community, provided he live in a place approved by a hospital official, continue following his treatment and stay away from drugs.
“The accused still represents, because of his mental state, an important threat for public safety,” the 2022 decision said.
The board noted that Mr. Brouillard Lessard suffered from schizoaffective disorder and had a lengthy history of psychotic illnesses. He habitually played down his medical problems and had recently been charged with assaulting a janitor in his apartment building.
Four months ago, he moved into a rooming house above a row of shops on Louiseville’s main street. He was known as a disruptive presence in the building, often feuding with neighbours and accusing them of stealing his cats, Mr. Deshaies said. He added that police had visited the property several times for calls related to Mr. Brouillard Lessard.
The fatal stabbing took place at the rooming house. Another tenant, Stéphane Caron, said he overheard Sgt. Breau. “I just heard the police officer saying, ‘Call the ambulance, I’ve been hit, I’ve been hit.’”
The incident is being investigated by the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, which probes incidents where civilians die in circumstances involving police.
The bureau said officers arrived at the rooming house around 8:30 p.m. on Monday. While the officers were reading the suspect his rights, he grabbed a knife and attacked them, the bureau said.
“I heard of Sgt. Breau’s death with great sadness. This ordeal is a reminder of the dangers police have to confront during extreme situations such as the one faced by Sgt. Breau, her colleagues and the dispatch staff,” SQ head Johanne Beausoleil said in a message to members of the force.
The SQ hasn’t released more details about Sgt. Breau, but the TVA network reported that she had recently been promoted to the force’s major-crimes unit.
The homicide in Louiseville happened less than two weeks after two Edmonton police constables responding to a family dispute were fatally shot by a teenager who killed himself afterward.
Sgt. Breau’s death is the fourth tragedy to befall Quebec in the past two months that has raised questions about the mental health of a suspect.
On Feb. 8, a bus driver crashed his vehicle into a daycare in Laval, killing two young children. On March 13, two residents in Amqui died after a pickup truck driver hit several pedestrians on a road. The following week, a 19-year-old Montrealer was charged with three counts of second-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of three of his relatives.
Mr. Deshaies called on the provincial government to invest more heavily in mental health services, and to revisit policies on releasing psychiatric patients from institutional care.
“We’re asking our police to be social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists. We’re asking them all that. That’s not their job,” he said. “I know it’s hard to get rid of all of this. But I think that people who are in mental health trouble, we need to pay more attention to them, structure them better, open institutions if we need to.”