Provincial police officer killed during attempted arrest northeast of Montreal
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 28, 2023 7:02AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 28, 2023 6:52PM EDT
A veteran Quebec provincial police officer was killed and a male suspect was shot dead by police during an attempted arrest at a home in the province's Mauricie region Monday night.
The police force confirmed in a news release Tuesday the death of Sgt. Maureen Breau, an officer with more than 20 years of experience.
Quebec's police watchdog said Breau was stabbed after she and a partner tried to arrest a suspect at around 8:30 p.m. on Monday for uttering threats.
The 35-year-old suspect, whose identity has not been released, was shot and killed by other officers who arrived on the scene in Louiseville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal. The watchdog — Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes — said another officer was wounded in the altercation but is expected to recover.
Police had cordoned off the area around a white, three-storey building on Tuesday morning, and both Quebec's police watchdog and Montreal police had set up mobile command posts. Crime scene technicians were snapping photos of the exterior of the building, which appeared to be of mixed commercial and residential use.
Quebec provincial police Chief Insp. Patrice Cardinal said Breau was in her early 40s and had two children. Her partner is also a provincial police officer, he said. Breau's two decades of police work were mostly spent on patrol or supervising patrol teams, he said in a phone interview.
"She had a lot of experience, for every kind of event or police intervention," he said.
Johanne Beausoleil, the provincial police chief, offered her condolences to Breau's husband, children, other family members and colleagues.
"It is with immense sadness that I learned of Sgt. Breau's death," Beausoleil said in the news release. "An ordeal like this reminds us of the danger police officers face in extreme situations like those confronted by Sgt. Breau, her fellow officers and the emergency telecommunications operators who supported them during the intervention."
Breau's sister, reached on Facebook, said the family was asking for privacy. "My big sister will always be my hero," she wrote in a message.
Yvon Deshaies, the mayor of Louiseville, said he had learned from the building's landlord and police that the suspect was disruptive and had started conflicts with neighbours — some of whom he had allegedly accused of stealing his cats.
"Everybody was scared of him," he said.
Deshaies also suggested the suspect had previously been hospitalized for mental health issues, although the mayor did not provide a source for that information.
"He shouldn’t have been here," he told reporters. "He should have been in an institution, getting healed. He was sick."
Jacques Painchaud, the president of an association representing provincial police officers, confirmed the police intervention originated in a mental health call — a situation that he said has become increasingly frequent. He told reporters at the scene that Breau was stabbed in the neck and there was little that could have been done to save her.
Painchaud said Breau was working an overtime shift when she was stabbed. She was four days away from starting a new job as an investigator, he added. "She was a mother with two young children. She gave her life for the mission."
Cardinal said the force was offering support to Breau's family, the other responding officers and staff who were affected. He thanked the public and other police forces for the hundreds of messages of support that have poured in from across the country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the "heartbreaking" death on Twitter. "I’m sending my condolences to Sgt. Maureen Breau’s family, friends, and (provincial police) colleagues — and I’m wishing a fast and full recovery to the officer who was injured," he wrote.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said police killings in Canada have become too frequent. He said he has been to seven officers' funerals since September, including two in Edmonton on Monday.
"It has been truly unprecedented in our country's history," he said. "We have to continue to find ways to support law enforcement in the way that they're doing their work to keep our community safe, particularly the families who are left to grieve without their loved ones," he said.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre also expressed condolences to the family and to police, suggesting such violent events are happening more often.
Quebec Premier François Legault said he would work with the province's minister responsible for social services to ensure that mental health cases are treated urgently when a person is deemed to be a risk of violence to themselves or others.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.
— With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.