April 23rd, 2024

Family of slain Quebec provincial police sergeant testifies at coroner’s inquest

By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press on March 20, 2024.

Quebec provincial police Sgt. Maureen Breau's husband, Daniel Sanscartier, and her children, Kheraly and Emrick, leave the church after her funeral service in Trois-Rivières, Que., Thursday, April 13, 2023. The family of a slain Quebec provincial police officer addressed a coroner's inquiry with her husband saying her tragic death should never have happened. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – Family members of a provincial police sergeant killed in the line of duty a year ago told a coroner’s inquest Wednesday they will be forever haunted by her murder, but they hope it results in change so no other family experiences what they have.

The inquest is examining the March 27, 2023 deaths of Sgt. Maureen Breau and Isaac Brouillard Lessard, a 35-year-old with schizoaffective disorder who stabbed Breau and another officer during an attempted arrest before being shot dead by two of their colleagues.

“I know that no future recommendation will bring my partner back to me, no recommendation will be satisfactory in my eyes to chase away the sadness that lives in me every day,” Daniel Sanscartier, Breau’s spouse of two decades, said in a letter read by a family friend.

Sanscartier said he hopes the coroner’s recommendations will have a profound and swift effect on how mental health cases are dealt with in the future.

The inquiry has heard of numerous failings in the assessment and supervision of Brouillard Lessard, who had been found not criminally responsible because of mental illness five times for offences in 2014 and 2018. He had spent time in a Montreal psychiatric hospital and had been under the supervision of the province’s mental health review board – the Commission d’examen des troubles mentaux – since 2014.

Brouillard Lessard had most recently been subject to conditions imposed by Quebec court in April 2022, when he was given an absolute discharge and probation after a violent assault on an apartment concierge.

Three days before the stabbing attack, Brouillard Lessard’s parents had tried to get police to arrest him, citing his deteriorating mental health. The parents said they felt abandoned when police visited his apartment and concluded they didn’t have reason to hospitalize him.

Sanscartier, a police officer with 24 years of experience, said he has seen mental health calls become more frequent over his career. He said there needs to be better monitoring and supervision of those struggling with mental health problems and better communication between health officials and police.

Sanscartier called Breau’s death avoidable, adding that testimony heard during the weeks-long inquest has prompted a mix of “sadness, incomprehension and anger.”

Sanscartier said Breau was a devoted mother of two who immediately won him over with her charm, kindness and love of life. “When you became part of her circle of friends, you got to know a woman who was generous, caring and attentive,” he said. Breau was just a few patrol shifts away from beginning a new job as a major crimes investigator.

Her mother, Lorette, told the inquiry the loss of her eldest daughter is “a life sentence that we must face every day,” adding that she has been left with anxiety and other issues. “A part of us died with her,” she said. Michel Breau, the officer’s father, remembered getting a call on the evening of the attack telling him to get to the hospital because his daughter had been injured on the job. He was at the hospital when her death was confirmed.

He described going to the crime scene the following morning in search of answers but said he learned little. From previous testimony at the inquest, Michel Breau learned that his daughter climbed the stairs unaware that Brouillard Lessard was armed with a knife – none of the officers had mentioned the weapon as the attempted arrest quickly went off the rails.

Michel Breau said his daughter acted out of concern for her colleague, who had shouted out after he was stabbed.

“Today I know everything that happened, my questioning ends,” he told the coroner. “You’ve been a great help.”

The coroner’s inquest is set to conclude Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2024.

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