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Coroner’s jury in New Brunswick seeks better rules for use of unmarked police cars

Click to play video: 'Coroner’s inquest made recommendations to prevent deaths similar to that of Michel Vienneau' Coroner’s inquest made recommendations to prevent deaths similar to that of Michel Vienneau
WATCH: A coroner’s inquest has made five recommendations on how to prevent deaths similar to that of Michel Vienneau. The 51-year-old businessman was fatally shot by municipal police Bathhurst in 2015 after the force received an anonymous crime stoppers tip. But as Callum Smith reports, no evidence of criminal activity was ever found. – May 7, 2021

A coroner’s inquest in northern New Brunswick is recommending that plainclothes police officers and their unmarked vehicles be easier to identify during interventions.

The five-member coroner’s jury released its recommendations Thursday following an investigation into the police-involved killing of Michel Vienneau on Jan. 12, 2015.

Vienneau was shot and killed by Bathurst, N.B., police after they responded to an erroneous Crime Stoppers tip suggesting the 51-year-old businessman and his wife were smuggling drugs into the province.

As the plainclothes police officers confronted the couple at the Bathurst train station, one officer was pinned between the couple’s vehicle and a snowbank. Vienneau – who wasn’t involved in any criminal activity – was shot in the heart and lungs.

The coroner’s jury recommended police always have a single person responsible for accessing Crime Stoppers information, including on weekends, so that intelligence is shared as quickly as possible.

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Jurors said unmarked police cars should be inspected regularly and flashing lights on those vehicles should be standardized and clearly visible.

Read more: Coroner’s inquest in death of Michel Vienneau scheduled for April

A patrol car with a police officer in uniform should be part of an intervention, they said, adding that plainclothes officers should wear outer clothing that clearly identifies them as police.

Click to play video: 'NB judge upholds dismissal of charges in police shooting of businessman' NB judge upholds dismissal of charges in police shooting of businessman
NB judge upholds dismissal of charges in police shooting of businessman – Oct 20, 2017

In December 2019, a New Brunswick arbitrator determined that constables Mathieu Boudreau and Patrick Bulger had not violated code of conduct rules when the plainclothes officers approached Vienneau’s car.

Arbitrator Joel Michaud found that Bulger had properly identified himself when he got out of his police vehicle and Boudreau showed himself “both in the way he was dressed and in the way he acted” to be a police officer before the shooting started.

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Boudreau and Bulger were initially charged with manslaughter, assault with a weapon and unlawfully pointing a firearm, but Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman ruled in February 2017 that the prosecution had failed to produce enough evidence to warrant a trial.

A coroner’s inquest is a formal court proceeding that allows for the public presentation of all evidence relating to a death. It does not make any finding of legal responsibility or assign blame. Recommendations are intended to help prevent future deaths under similar circumstances.

The chief coroner will forward the recommendations to the appropriate agencies for consideration.

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