A coroner’s inquiry into the police shooting last February of Alain Magloire, a homeless man suffering from mental illness, begins this morning at the Centre de services judiciaires Gouin. The Gazette will be following the inquiry closely over the next two weeks, but here is what you need to know to follow this story.
Who was Alain Magloire?
At the time of the incident, Magloire was a 41-year-old homeless man suffering from mental illness. He was also a father of two who held a master’s degree in molecular biology, and the son of former Haitian justice Minister René Magloire. Magloire had worked as a biochemist and researcher before he became ill. In the fall of 2013, a few months before his death, Magloire had stayed at the Old Brewery Mission for a month, and then found an apartment through the mission’s Transition Services program. His family described him as a loving, gentle man who enjoyed playing rugby and volunteering for a charity that helped disabled children. Those who knew him at the mission said he was well regarded.
On the morning of Feb. 3, 2014, Montreal police were called to a hostel on Berri St. to investigate a report of a man threatening staff and breaking windows with a hammer. Witnesses say police surrounded Magloire, who was reportedly still clutching the hammer when they arrived, on the sidewalk near the Berri Métro station. Magloire walked onto the street toward officers and was knocked off his feet by a squad car. He rolled over the hood of the car, stumbled back onto the sidewalk and was then shot four times by police officers. The Sûreté du Québec was called in to investigate the shooting, as is the practice when a death or serious injury results from a Montreal police action. On September 3, Quebec’s Crown prosecutor’s office announced that no charges would be laid against the officers involved in the shooting.
What will the coroner do?
Coroner Luc Malouin, who is presiding over the public proceedings, will hear from witnesses this week, Monday to Thursday, and from Jan. 19 and Jan. 22 in room SS. 16 of the Centre de services judiciaires Gouin, 450 Gouin Blvd. W. He will examine this case, as well as the Montreal police department’s typical approach to mentally ill suspects and make recommendations on how that approach can be improved.
Haven’t we had coroner’s inquests into this kind of issue before?
Yes. Last July, coroner Jean Brochu released his report into the death of 34-year-old Farshad Mohammadi. Mohammadi, also mentally ill and homeless, attacked a police officer with an X-Acto knife as police tried to get him to leave the Bonaventure métro station on Jan. 6, 2012. As Mohammadi tried to flee, he was fatally shot in the back. In his report on that incident, Brochu called for better mental health services for mentally ill and drug addicted people, more mobile intervention squads combining police officers and mental health professionals, better training for police officers on how to deal with people in the throes of a mental health crisis, and more Tasers and Taser training for police forces in the province. Tasers fire electrodes that can immobilize a person without serious injury. Montreal police acquired 12 additional Tasers last July, bringing to 70 the number of these weapons available to officers. Three hundred officers on the force are now trained to use them.
Brochu was also the coroner who examined the fatal police shooting of Mario Hamel, a 36-year-old mentally ill homeless man who was fatally shot in the back by a police officer on June 7, 2011. Hamel had been cutting open garbage bags on St. Denis St. early that morning when police were called and was shot while four police officers tried to subdue him. One of the bullets ricocheted and fatally wounded Patrick Limoges, 40, who was cycling to work past the scene. In that case, Brochu recommended more tasers for the police, obligatory ongoing training in firearms use for police, and more services for homeless people suffering from mental illness.