A coroner recommends the use of rubber bullets to prevent deaths during police interventions

A coroner recommends the use of intermediate weapons projecting rubber bullets for officers of the Service de police de la Ville de Repentigny (SPVR) in order to prevent deaths during police interventions.

Coroner Karine Spénard makes this recommendation in her report on the death of Jean René Junior Olivier, 37, which occurred on 1er August 2021 after two police officers opened fire on him. The report, dated May 30, 2023, was made public on Tuesday.

That morning, the young man’s mother had dialed 911, worried about her son. The man carried a knife on him, no longer slept at night, no longer ate and was in crisis. She feared he was hurting himself or hurting her, according to the 911 call cited in the report.

Five police officers arrived at the family home, the first two around 7:44 a.m. About 20 minutes later, Jean René Junior Olivier was dead after rushing towards the police, knife in hand. He was hit by four bullets which inflicted fatal injuries.

It is a “violent death”, wrote the coroner. She concludes that the officers attempted to defuse the situation while remaining an appropriate distance from the man until he ran towards them.

“Relatives of Mr. Olivier said they were convinced that the police had gone to him with the intention of killing him. With respect, I do not subscribe to this opinion,” she wrote.

“They did not provoke Mr. Olivier’s action either, but used their service weapons only when he himself decided to rush towards them. »

Video of the event

His report is based on a video of the event filmed by a paramedic showing in particular that the man was holding a steak knife while running towards the police. They tried to talk for about 14 minutes with the man, who did not answer them and seemed indifferent to their presence before rushing towards them.

“Since Mr. Olivier ran towards the police, the latter had no other means of controlling Mr. Olivier without putting their own lives in danger,” added the coroner.

To limit the use of firearms in police interventions, it recommends the use of intermediate weapons equipped with rubber bullets — less likely to cause death — and to train the police in their use.

The disappointed family

The family of Jean René Junior Olivier testified to their disappointment after the publication of the coroner’s report. The parents of the young man have mandated the Lakay organization, which is campaigning for a public inquiry into this affair, to make known their immense feeling of injustice.

“The coroner did not take into account the character of racial profiling, systemic racism, in the investigation,” said Pierre Richard Thomas, president of Lakay.

According to him, the death of Jean René Junior Olivier is the culmination of tensions between the black community of Repentigny and their police department.

Mr. Thomas also deplores that the coroner recommended the use of rubber bullets, which nevertheless led to the death of Bony Jean-Pierre during a police intervention in Montreal North, in 2016. The police officer who had fired had was acquitted of a charge of manslaughter.

A test

“We would like to rethink the use of force model that exists in Quebec, and also put much more emphasis on communication, disengagement and conciliation, before we come to the use of force,” says argue Alain Babineau, a former police officer who is part of the Red Coalition, an organization campaigning against racial profiling.

For its part, the City of Repentigny indicated to the Duty that she “take note” of the coroner’s report.

“We will read it and seriously consider its recommendation. We are aware that each stage of this file is an ordeal for the family, loved ones, the police and our community and we are very sensitive to it, ”wrote by email Marylou Bossé, of the City’s communications department.

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