content warning: violence, police brutality, anti-Black racism
On June 27, 2017, SPVM officers shot and killed Pierre Coriolan, a 58-year-old Black man with a history of mental illness. Coriolan was killed in the hallway outside his apartment on Robillard Avenue near St-André Street in the Gay Village.
SPVM officers yelled at Coriolan as they entered the apartment; rather than de-escalating the situation, the officers created a more tense environment. Coriolan did not pose a threat to anyone. He was reported as being alone and yelling in his apartment. Furthermore, officers used extreme force despite Coriolan being clearly incapacitated after falling to the ground. They can be seen striking Coriolan with a baton, tazing him twice, kicking him in the ribs, and punching him in the head. It is clear from videos taken by witnesses that officers made no effort to interact with Coriolan or de-escalate the situation.
Earlier this month, a three person panel from the Directeur des Poursuites Criminelles et Pénales (DPCP) released their decision regarding the use of force against Coriolan. This decision followed the Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes’ (BEI) examination, an independent group that reviews cases of police violence. Based on the results of the BEI’s report, the DPCP concluded that the use of police force in killing Pierre Coriolan was justified. Notably, none of the BEI’s investigations have ever convicted a single officer.
The coroner’s office has recommended the SPVM undergo more training in aiding people who suffer from mental illness. The SPVM even acknowledged that very few of their officers are trained in de-escalating mental health crises. However, the DPCP justified the actions of the officers, stating that “police are often placed in situations where they have to rapidly make difficult decisions. In this context, it cannot be expected that they measure the level of force applied with precision.” Even though the officers’ use of force resulted in Coriolan’s death, they went on to conclude that the officers did not commit a crime.
Coriolan’s family’s lawyer, Virginie Dufresne-Lemire, stated that the family would still continue to pursue a civil case against the city. In a phone interview with CTV, she asked, “was it right the way they intervened, how they prepared and decided to intervene, the words they used and in what way they were said? Was that the right way to intervene with people in crisis?”
The results of the lawsuit against the city have yet to be announced.