A Quebec provincial police officer was killed while trying to arrest a man Monday night in Louiseville, about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal in the province’s Mauricie region.
The Sûreté du Québec said authorities were called around 8:30 p.m. to intervene in a dispute in an apartment building on St-Laurent Avenue. The suspect, a 35-year-old man, was allegedly uttering threats.
Quebec’s independent police watchdog, known as the BEI, is investigating and reported the suspect attacked the female police officer with a knife during the arrest. French-language network TVA reported the police officer then fell from the second storey of the building.
Police confirmed the officer later died in hospital from her injuries. She has been identified as Sgt. Maureen Breau, a police officer with more than 20 years of experience.
The suspect was fatally shot after two additional police officers arrived at the scene, according to the BEI. Provincial police said a second police officer was also injured but is expected to recover.
Quebec provincial police Chief Insp. Patrice Cardinal said Sgt. Breau was in her early 40s and had two children. Her partner is also a provincial police officer, he said. Sgt. Breau had 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,” Cardinal said.
Jacques Painchaud, the president of an association representing provincial police officers, said the police intervention originated in a mental health call — a situation that has become increasingly frequent, he said. He told reporters at the scene that Sgt. Breau was stabbed in the neck and there was little that could have been done to help her.
Painchaud said Sgt. 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 gave her life for the mission,” Painchaud said.
Johanne Beausoleil, the provincial police chief, offered her condolences to Sgt. 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.”
Louiseville Mayor Yvon Deshaies said what unfolded in the town is a tragedy and that is why there needs to be more mental-health supports available.
“Everyone is grieving this morning,” he told reporters at the scene.
The BEI says it has assigned five investigators to the case, and they will be aided by Montreal police officers.
The police watchdog’s vehicle was visible at the scene early Tuesday. A safety perimetre was set up at the apartment building as investigators remained on site.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “the news from Louiseville, Quebec is heartbreaking.”
“I’m sending my condolences to Sergeant Maureen Breau’s family, friends, and the Sûreté du Québec colleagues — and I’m wishing a fast and full recovery to the officer who was injured. We’re keeping you all in our thoughts,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
Quebec Premier François Legault spoke briefly to reporters Tuesday afternoon, and he described the fatal incident as “a violent tragedy.” He offered his sympathies to Sgt. Breau’s loved ones and to the provincial police.
“We often forget that these people are courageous and protect us and they have a job that is dangerous,” Legault said.
Public Security Minister François Bonnardel said Tuesday that “today reminds us that the police do dangerous and important work to ensure the safety of Quebecers.”
“I can never thank them enough for their sacrifices,” Bonnardel wrote on Twitter.
Cardinal of the provincial police said the force is offering support to Sgt. Breau’s family, the other responding officers and other staff who are affected. He also thanked the public and other police forces for the hundreds of messages of support that have poured in from across the country.
— with files from Global News’ Phil Carpenter and The Canadian Press