Police arrest man, 19, after lockdown at Quebec junior college south of Montreal

MONTREAL — A 19-year-old man wearing a bulletproof vest was arrested at gunpoint outside a Quebec junior college on Friday in an incident that led to an hours-long lockdown of the school.

St-Jean-sur-Richelieu municipal police said in a statement the man will remain detained until his arraignment on charges that will include uttering threats. Police spokesman Sgt. Jérémie Levesque told reporters there were no injuries or gunshots reported at the college, located about 40 kilometres southeast of Montreal.

Students inside the school when a suspicious male was reported outside were instructed to barricade themselves inside classrooms and were confined for hours before police conducted a controlled evacuation, searching bags and vehicles as students left the campus.

Levesque said police arrested a man wearing a "bulletproof vest" but would not confirm whether the suspect was enrolled at the college.

A female under the age of 18 was also detained outside the college, but investigators determined she had nothing to do with the incident.

"Apart from the bulletproof vest, I don't have any information on explosives or weapons," Levesque said. Quebec provincial police helped local police complete a sweep of the school, which has 3,000 students.

The junior college — Cégep Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu — said later on Friday that the lengthy process of allowing students and staff out of the building went smoothly. Though nobody was injured, two people, including a pregnant woman, were transported to hospital as a precautionary measure, Levesque said.

Police said they received several 911 calls Friday shortly after 9 a.m. about a man acting suspiciously on campus, and the arrest was made at around 10 a.m.

Levesque said it was the man's clothing that was particularly alarming. Videos circulating online showed that the arrests occurred outside the college in what looked like a parking lot.

College officials ordered students and staff to barricade themselves in closed rooms and to keep the lights off at the behest of the police department. Police established a security perimeter around the college and restricted access to the school.

Earlier Friday, Annie Métivier, an interior design technician at the college, said that she and four others — a colleague and three students — barricaded themselves in her darkened office at about 9:15 a.m.

“I'm still barricaded, and we don't know anything … We’re following the information on social media and from our friends outside,” Métivier said in an exchange through Facebook Messenger before noon. “We are five in my office at the moment, and we turned off the lights because that was what we were instructed to do."

Métivier said she wanted the police operation to be over.

“We're fine yes … stressed but it's fine. We just can't wait for all of this to end," she said. “I saw the police with their guns next to my office because I had to go back and lock a door that a teacher had unlocked adjacent to my office. They told me to 'hurry, hurry up and lock yourself in' … seeing the police with their weapons ready to shoot … it increases the stress."

Nearly six hours after her ordeal began, at 3:12 p.m., she reported that she had made it home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2022.

— With files from Marisela Amador in Montreal.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press