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Apartment attack suspect charming and funny, friends say

Jerome Bonneric, a French national, will remain in custody until Feb. 27.

He was a nice guy, the cliché goes, but it is a description friends keep repeating: The Jerome Bonneric they know is charming and sociable, a regular guy who loves good food, wine, music and fashion. He is funny, they say.

With some wanting to show support and others simply seeking answers, a handful of Mr. Bonneric's friends turned up at Vancouver Provincial Court, where the 33-year-old made his second appearance this week. He is charged with 12 counts of assault after a horrific attack at a West End apartment building last week that left eight people injured, including one responding police officer.

Clad in red prisoners' garb and displaying injuries sustained during his arrest – a gash on his forehead and a cast over his right forearm – Mr. Bonneric appeared to acknowledge his friends' presence as he scanned the courtroom gallery during his brief appearance on Thursday.

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The case has been held over until Feb. 27 to give the Crown time to prepare "substantial disclosure" for the defence. The French national, who has Canadian residency, will remain behind bars until then.

Outside the courthouse, Mr. Bonneric's lawyer, Bob Bellows, said his client is "extremely despondent" after his "mental breakdown." The support network Mr. Bonneric has speaks to how "absolutely out of character" violence is for him.

"His friends are standing by him and they care deeply for him," he said. "His parents care deeply for him. They've been in contact with him. He's had a phone call to his mom and dad in France."

Mr. Bonneric moved to Vancouver from Paris, by way of Los Angeles, several years ago, friends say. He briefly offered in-home French lessons, which he sold online, before taking a job at a gourmet bakery in Port Coquitlam. He made friends quickly.

Mr. Bonneric complained about the rain in Vancouver and had talked of moving back to Los Angeles. One friend, who did not want to be named, thought Mr. Bonneric had decided to stay after he met his girlfriend – the woman he was believed to be staying with in the Barclay Street apartment where the attack occurred.

The Jan. 31 attack began around 6:45 p.m., when a man ran through the building attacking people, seemingly at random. Police are calling the incident a stabbing, but several victims say the man was wielding a hammer. Six people initially went to hospital; of those, two women remain. One woman is in "very serious condition" but is expected to survive, according to Vancouver Police Sergeant Randy Fincham.

Mr. Bonneric had visited St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver just days prior to the attack. While the hospital could not comment on his case specifically, head psychiatrist Maria Corral said that any patient who visits the hospital with a mental-health issue is seen by a psychiatric nurse and emergency physician. If it is deemed necessary, the patient is then transferred to the psychiatry department for a more in-depth assessment that involves a complete review of medical and mental-health history.

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If the patient demonstrates behaviour indicating he or she might self-harm, or harm others, the patient is held for treatment in hospital.

"If there is any doubt, we will hold that person for further information," Dr. Corral said.

About 4,500 patients with mental-health concerns visited St. Paul's last year.

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