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City of Bathurst will not ask for judicial review of arbitration ruling in 2015 fatal shooting

Arbitrator says 2 Bathurst police officers did not violate the force’s code of conduct
WATCH: An arbitrator says two Bathurst police officers did not violate the force’s code of conduct following a fatal shooting in 2015.

The City of Bathurst will not request a judicial review of an arbitrator’s ruling dismissing alleged code of conduct breaches by two Bathurst police officers in the fatal shooting of Michel Vienneau.

Constables Mathieu Boudreau and Patrick Bulger were accused of five code of conduct violations after Vienneau was shot in his vehicle outside the Bathurst train station on Jan. 12, 2015.

In his Dec. 24, 2019 decision, arbitrator Joël Michaud dismissed the alleged breaches, which included improper use of a firearm, unnecessary use of force, acting in a discreditable manner, neglect of duty and being “abusive or oppressive” to a person while on duty.

“Following the decision on December 24th, 2019, it was important for us to take the necessary time to carefully analyze the decision before making any statement,” said Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie in a statement.

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“We recognize the arduous work done during this process and the decision rendered by the arbitrator, through a public and transparent process, and we accept the decision.”

The officers had been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the hearing.

The City of Bathurst now says Bulger and Boudreau will now be reintegrated into the force starting on Jan. 20. That process includes an internal administrative process and external recertification.

READ MORE: N.B. officers didn’t break rules in fatal shooting, arbitrator rules

The shooting occurred after police acted on an erroneous Crime Stoppers tip that Vienneau, a 51-year-old businessman, and his common-law partner Annick Basque were transporting illegal drugs on a trip from Montreal.

As police confronted the couple, one officer was pinned between the couple’s white 2013 Chevrolet Cruze vehicle and a snowbank.

Vienneau — who wasn’t involved in any criminal activity — was shot in the heart and lungs.

In the 58-page decision, Michaud rejected civilian evidence that Vienneau’s car had stopped moving by the time officers shot at it, noting the witness who made this statement had poor eyesight.

Michaud noted this was a key point because if the car was still moving towards the pinned officer, it could have been perceived as a lethal threat.

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NB judge upholds dismissal of charges in police shooting of businessman
NB judge upholds dismissal of charges in police shooting of businessman

The witness’ eyesight was “not good, plus he was wrong on other key pieces of evidence, notably the (police) vehicle from which came the shooter. I think the version of the two officers is more reliable,” Michaud wrote.

But the decision also found that Vienneau and Basque sincerely believed they weren’t being confronted by police officers.

Michaud said he didn’t know what was going through Vienneau’s mind at the time of the incident but noted that “Vienneau and Basque were concerned about terrorists during the weekend… and when Boudreau and Bulger blocked their way, that’s what they saw.”

“I think Vienneau acted quickly based on what he expected to see and experience, not what was actually taking place,” reads the decision.

READ MORE: Decision reserved in hearing for N.B. officers involved in fatal shooting

The arbitrator said in his decision that he agreed with testimony that Bulger’s actions were those of a “consummate professional.”

He also found Bulger properly identified himself when he got out of his police vehicle and that Boudreau showed himself “both in the way he was dressed and in the way he acted” to be a police officer before he took the first of four shots at Vienneau’s vehicle.

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During closing arguments, lawyer Basile Chiasson, who represented the Bathurst police chief, had said the two officers acted hastily and were “trying to show their mettle” that day.

Lawyers for the two officers argued the investigators were unfairly targeted for blame.

With files from Callum Smith