Quebec officer dead: Coroner inquest hears suspect’s parents wanted son hospitalized

By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — The parents of a Quebec man who killed a provincial police sergeant last March had tried to get him forcibly hospitalized in the days leading up to the attack because of how seriously his mental health had deteriorated. 

Those details came to light on Monday during the opening day of a coroner’s inquest into the deaths of Sgt. Maureen Breau and Isaac Brouillard Lessard, who was shot dead by police moments after he allegedly stabbed the officer with a kitchen knife. 

Breau was killed on March 27 while trying to arrest Brouillard Lessard, who had a history of mental health problems, in Louiseville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal. She and three other officers were dispatched to the suspect’s apartment after he had allegedly uttered threats and broke probation. Another officer was seriously injured in the knife attack.

Two responding provincial police officers shot the 35-year-old 19 times; he died near the front door of his apartment. Breau was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead just after 11 p.m.

On Monday, the coroner’s inquiry heard that Brouillard Lessard had been sending threatening texts and making phone calls to his mother three days before the attack.

Patrick Michaud, an investigator with Quebec’s independent police watchdog — Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes — testified about the spate of messages,as well as other texts between the mother and a relative in whom she confided that her son was in psychosis.

“If he calls, you can call the police,” the mother texted to a family member. “He’s living in Louiseville and he doesn’t have money to get around, so no worries.”

His mother and father both called 911 on March 24 to have their son arrested and forcibly hospitalized. That night, four officers paid a visit to Brouillard Lessard’s apartment — two of them would be back for the deadly encounter three days later. 

Michaud said the officers didn’t arrest Brouillard Lessard on March 24; the man was calm and admitted to making the threats. The investigator testified that police had determined they did not have reason to arrest him.

Brouillard Lessard continued making threats against his mother, and his father called 911 less than an hour after the visit to complain that police had not arrested his son.

Michaud noted in his testimony that between March 24 and March 27, Brouillard Lessard tried to call his mother 43 times and sent her 481 text messages.

On March 27, the day of the fatal stabbing, an uncle called police to report that Brouillard Lessard had made threats.

The inquiry heard that police had four interactions with Brouillard Lessard between late December 2022 and the night the sergeant was stabbed to death. The first one was on Dec. 30, 2022, a few days after he had moved to the small Quebec town and had an altercation with another tenant in his rooming house over a missing cat. 

Police made no arrests as neither man wanted to file a complaint, but a provincial police officer issued an internal bulletin to fellow officers in the district to “act with caution” regarding Brouillard Lessard, and noting that he had a history of violence against health-care workers.

Brouillard Lessard had been found not criminally responsible five times for past offences.

Late last month, the Crown announced no criminal charges would be laid against the two officers who shot him dead.

The public inquiry is taking place in Trois-Rivières, Que., halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, and is being presided over by coroner Géhane Kamel.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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