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Quebec’s 2012 election-night shooting ‘unpredictable,’ police witnesses testify

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois is whisked off stage as she delivered her victory speech in Montreal, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The provincial police officer charged with the personal security of then-premier-designate Pauline Marois during Quebec’s 2012 fatal election shooting testified on Monday that he is satisfied with his team’s work that day.

Frédéric Desgagnés, a sergeant with the provincial police unit that oversees security of dignitaries, told the court his team did a good job of protecting Marois. The unit followed protocol, he said, adding that the threat of the gunman was unforeseeable.

“It had gone undetected; it was an unpredictable and irrational event,” Desgagnés told the court.

Desgagnés testified at the civil trial of four stagehands who were present the night of the shooting and who are suing the City of Montreal and Quebec’s attorney general for a total of more than $600,000.

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Richard Henry Bain was convicted in 2016 on one count of second-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder for the shooting and arson outside the Metropolis concert hall as Marois delivered a victory speech inside the downtown Montreal venue.

Lighting technician Denis Blanchette was shot to death in the attack, and a second technician, David Courage, was injured after being struck by the same bullet that killed his colleague. Courage was present at the courthouse Monday in support of his four colleagues.

The plaintiffs allege the police didn’t do enough to evaluate the risks associated with the event and that there were no police stationed outside the back door of the venue or at other key areas. They say they suffered post-traumatic stress and other psychological damage due to the shooting.

Desgagnés testified that he approved the security plan and that he was one of the officers who moved Marois off the stage when he heard an explosion — caused by Bain launching an incendiary device. Desgagnés said he first mistakenly thought the noise came from a confetti cannon.

He said bodyguards were stationed with Marois and her family, adding that police stood guard inside the concert venue. Desgagnés said an agent was positioned at the back door of the concert hall but no officer was outside, where Bain attacked.

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Desgagnés said his team’s job was to protect Marois and her family, adding that the exterior perimeter fell to the Montreal police.

The court has heard that Marois faced six threats the day of the election and that none were traced back to Bain.

Desgagnés said he only learned of the six threats made against Marois after the shooting.

“If there was an imminent danger, I would have been told,” he said. “But if they are unfounded or not an immediate threat, I would not be informed.”

Dominique Langelier, a provincial police officer who was in charge of intelligence on the night of the shooting, testified that it wasn’t common practice to guard the rear of a building.

Langelier told the court Monday that Desgagnés’ team was tasked with watching Marois while his unit was in charge of supervising the crowd.

“Zero risk doesn’t exist,” Langelier said. “Mr. Bain acted as a lone wolf, planned his act, didn’t tell anyone. It was unpredictable for us.”

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