Witnesses share account of Vienneau shooting that differs from police's

·4 min read
The area around the Via Rail station in Bathurst remained cordoned off in January 2015 as Nova Scotia RCMP investigate the fatal shooting of Michel Vienneau by Bathurst city police. (Bridget Yard/CBC - image credit)
The area around the Via Rail station in Bathurst remained cordoned off in January 2015 as Nova Scotia RCMP investigate the fatal shooting of Michel Vienneau by Bathurst city police. (Bridget Yard/CBC - image credit)

Two civilians who witnessed the fatal shooting of Michel Vienneau outside a train station in Bathurst in 2015 gave coroner's inquest their accounts Thursday of what they saw happen.

Train engineer Joseph Sutton and Petit-Rocher resident Gerald Jean gave accounts that differed somewhat from the previous testimony of some police officers.

They were both situated just west of the scene that January morning in 2015 when the 51-year-old Tracadie businessman was fatally shot.

Neither of them heard anyone shout "police" nor saw any flashing red and blue police lights on the unmarked police vehicles until after the shooting.

Constables Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau previously testified they had turned on their flashing lights and yelled "police" when they got out of their Pontiac G6 in plainclothes.

Michel Vienneau, 51, of Tracadie, had come off a Via Rail train from Montreal and was in his car when he was shot and killed by police.
Michel Vienneau, 51, of Tracadie, had come off a Via Rail train from Montreal and was in his car when he was shot and killed by police.(Submitted by Nicolas Vienneau)

Sutton said what he remembered hearing was something like, "Stop, stop, don't move, stay right there."

At first, he said, he didn't realize the men surrounding Vienneau's car with guns drawn were police.

"I actually thought it was some kind of gang war or something," he said.

One of the people was "pretty rough-looking," said Sutton.

Sutton turned away briefly to put some distance between himself and what seemed a dangerous situation.

Then his fellow engineer called his name so he looked back and saw Vienneau's white car "slewing" toward the other side of the road. It was zigzagging because its tires were spinning, he said.

Then there were shots fired, said Sutton, and the car went into the snowbank.

He added that he was not sure of the sequence of events. And that the shots and the car being in the snowbank happened almost simultaneously.

Jean had gone to the train station that morning to pick up his mother, who was arriving from a trip with his sister.

He said he was cleaning snow off his sister's vehicle when he heard a noise and turned around.

Jean said he didn't hear anyone shout "police" either. He didn't see any police lights or hear any sirens.

It seemed like a scene from a movie, he said.

The RCMP took this photo of the scene outside the Bathurst Via Rail station after Michel Vienneau was shot by a member of the Bathurst Police Force.
The RCMP took this photo of the scene outside the Bathurst Via Rail station after Michel Vienneau was shot by a member of the Bathurst Police Force.(RCMP)

The white car appeared to be trying to get away.

Bulger was running more beside the car than in front of it, said Jean.

Bulger and Boudreau testified that Bulger was in front of Vienneau's car.

And Jean did not see the vehicle hit Bulger, as Bulger said it did.

He said Bulger ran up the bank facing away from the car and fell face first into the snow.

Bulger said earlier that he had been backing up and fell on his backside.

Jean said Bulger then rolled away, got up and moved toward the car.

He said the car was also moving toward Bulger and the snowbank, and accelerated from about two metres away.

That part is consistent with the testimony of the officers involved.

Jean said he then saw Boudreau shoot at the back door of Vienneau's vehicle and then at the driver. He estimated Boudreau was a few feet from the vehicle.

Jean was about 15 metres, or 50 feet, away from the scene.

Because of some conflicting accounts about whether the blue and red light bar inside Bulger and Boudreau's vehicle was functional, former Bathurst police chief Eugene Poitras was asked about the force's maintenance practices.

Former Bathurst police chief Eugene Poitras testified that members of the integrated intelligence unit were the 'specialists' in dealing with information that comes in from tips.
Former Bathurst police chief Eugene Poitras testified that members of the integrated intelligence unit were the 'specialists' in dealing with information that comes in from tips.(Jennifer Sweet/CBC)

Poitras testified that their fleet was inspected frequently and any required repairs were made without delay.

The RCMP investigator brought in from Nova Scotia, Larry Wilson, testified that he found the lights were working.

Wilson described the discrepancies in accounts of the incident as "minor." He said that by and large other witnesses corroborated Bulger and Boudreau's versions of events.

Wilson found that Boudreau shot at Vienneau because he perceived an imminent and ongoing threat to his partner. But he also said that Vienneau "may not" have recognized Bulger and Boudreau as police.

He said the search of Vienneau's Chevrolet Cruze did not turn up any trace of the pills he was supposed to be trafficking, according to the information that had been received.

And a search of his cellphone gave no indication of criminal activity.

Vienneau's widow is expected to testify Friday.