FREDERICTON — A New Brunswick arbitrator has 15 days to decide the fate of two Bathurst, N.B., police officers who were involved in a fatal shooting almost five years ago.
Constables Mathieu Boudreau and Patrick Bulger are accused of five code of conduct violations after Michel Vienneau was shot in his vehicle outside the Bathurst train station on Jan. 12, 2015.
"It has been a long journey and a lot of families have been torn asunder by what happened on that day," Basile Chiasson, the lawyer for the Bathurst police chief, said after the end of closing arguments Monday in Fredericton. "There's nothing to win here, because everything has been lost on that fateful morning."
Police were acting on an erroneous Crime Stoppers tip that Vienneau, a 51-year-old businessman, and his common-law partner, Annick Basque, were transporting illegal drugs on a trip from Montreal.
In their effort to confront the couple, a police officer was pinned between a car and a snowbank and Vienneau was shot.
An investigation by the RCMP revealed that Vienneau was not involved in criminal activity.
During closing arguments, Chiasson said the two officers "acted in a hasty fashion" and were "trying to show their mettle" that day. He said they showed no good judgment or common sense as they tried to arrest two law-abiding citizens.
The police officers were conducting a plainclothes operation with unmarked vehicles, and he said it's unclear if Vienneau knew Bulger and Boudreau were officers or believed they were "druggies or terrorists."
T.J. Burke, the lawyer for Boudreau, acknowledged no drugs were found but questioned why an innocent man would not stop for police.
He said the officers did not have so-called "takedown jackets" with the word "police" on them. and lights and a public address system in their vehicle were not working properly. He said that was the fault of their employer.
Brian Munro, the lawyer for Bulger, said the two officers have been unfairly targeted for blame. He said senior officers did not question what the officers were wearing or the plan to confront the couple at the train station as they returned from a seeing a hockey game in Montreal.
He was critical of evidence given by Basque during the hearing when she was confused about which officer was driving the police car, and when she said she heard 30 to 60 gunshots fired. In fact, there were five shots.
"It all unfolded in a way we wish it had not unfolded," he said. "If Mr. Vienneau had stopped, we wouldn't be here."
In total, the hearing heard from 13 witnesses over 10 days.
The decision will determine possible disciplinary action against the officers, which could include dismissal.
Last month, Vienneau's family announced it is offering a $10,000 reward for information surrounding his death. In a Facebook post Nicolas Vienneau, Michel's brother, says the police were acting on "bogus" Crime Stoppers tips.
It says the reward is for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of suspects surrounding Vienneau's death.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2019.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press