An 18-year-old man was shot in the head while his mother watched at the courthouse in the Quebec town of Maniwaki after an altercation with a special constable escalated from an extended wrestling match and was caught on video by one of the man's cousins.
The wounded man was in hospital Wednesday, according to Quebec's Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), the provincial agency that takes charge of investigations involving police violence.
Officials had no update on his condition late Wednesday, but the man's mother wrote on her Facebook page that her son was undergoing evening surgery at a Gatineau, Que. hospital. "His brain was not struck. He is strong and fighting for his life," she wrote.
A jerky portion of the two-minute video captured Wednesday at the scene by the man's cousin, Chris Lacaille, appeared to show the constable firing the gun downward at a target a few metres away as the officer yelled "Don't move!" The man's mother was pleading with the constable when the shot was fired.
The courthouse constable, who was not identified, suffered unspecified injuries and was also taken to hospital. His condition was unknown, although the Sûreté du Québec described the conditions of both men as serious earlier Wednesday.
At around 1 p.m., a fight broke out between the two men, and the officer tried to use his telescoping nightstick to subdue the 18-year-old, according to preliminary information provided by statement by the BEI. In the course of the fight, the young man got hold of the constable's nightstick and hit the constable in the head with it. The constable pulled his gun and shot the man, the statement confirmed.
The video begins with the two men on their feet wrestling in a waiting room while, at different times, two to four other uniformed men stood by. "Should I call the police?" one of the bystanders in uniform asked. "Yes, call the police," the constable answered. "Hey, I need help," the constable later asks some of the other men standing nearby, referring to them as "agents."
In Quebec, armed courthouse security is provided by trained special constables covered by the Police Act. Additional security is often provided by unarmed civilians with less training.
Chris Lacaille, at least one other young man and a woman, identified by family as the wounded man's mother, were nearby shouting. "They're all just standing around man, they're idiots," another male voice says of the security guards watching the fight.
After 25 seconds, the struggle moves into an adjacent room where the young man grabs a door jam. Two men in uniform try helping the constable to get the man to release his grip and get the man on the ground. The special constable is no longer visible but is heard shouting instructions to get on the ground. After about a minute, the situation seems to be calming.
"Put your hands behind your back," the special constable says repeatedly. The mother looks into the room and says "You'd better not hurt my boy with your stick," lacing her instruction with French curses as she moves away. "I should just jump on him myself."
About 90 seconds into the video, a thud is heard. "I think he hit the ground," one of the male witnesses says. The mother goes rushing back. The uniformed courthouse staffers seem uncertain what to do. Cracking sounds are heard off camera while the constable cries out in apparent distress and yells "Guys! Guys!" to the agents.
The mother yells for the men to let the 18-year-old go as she rushes back toward the altercation around the doorway. "Put away your fucking gun! Put down your gun!" she yells repeatedly.
At the 1:43 mark of the video, the sound of a gunshot rings out. For the remaining 23 seconds, chaos ensues with indecipherable yelling and screaming.
Eight BEI investigators are assigned to the case, with technical assistance from the Montreal police.