Judge upholds dismissal of charges in Bathurst police shooting of businessman
BATHURST, N.B. -- A judge has upheld a decision dismissing manslaughter charges against two constables in the police shooting of a New Brunswick businessman.
Const. Patrick Bulger and Const. Mathieu Boudreau had been charged in the death of Michel Vienneau, a 51-year-old storeowner who was shot in his vehicle outside the Bathurst train station on Jan. 12, 2015.
"The decision was what I was hoping and what I actually expected ... I would like to think this is the end of the road for this process," said Brian Munro, Bulger's lawyer.
"Once the public hears the facts of this case I think they'll understand this was a tragedy but not a criminal event."
The evidence remains subject to a publication ban for at least 30 days, unless the ruling is appealed. The officers were investigating whether Vienneau and his common-law partner were in possession of illegal drugs after returning from a trip to Montreal.
In February, provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman ruled after a preliminary hearing that the prosecution failed to produce enough evidence to warrant a trial, and she dropped charges against the officers.
The province's Public Prosecutions Services challenged the ruling, saying the judge failed to consider all of the relevant evidence.
But on Friday, Court of Queens Bench Judge Tracey DeWare ruled the lower court judge made the correct decision.
"I do not find Judge Dugas-Horsman made a jurisdictional error," DeWare said. "In all the circumstances, there is no foundation to disturb the finding of the preliminary inquiry judge."
Munro told reporters the two officers have spent years living with the charges, but the matter did not amount to a criminal case.
"With greatest respect for the victim here because this was a tragedy, a person's life was lost," he said. "It's long overdue that this gets put behind."
Boudreau's lawyer, Emily Cochrane, said her client is pleased with the decision.
"We're just hoping that after the 30 days (appeal period) we can put this behind us," she said.
An RCMP investigation later found that Vienneau was not involved in criminal activity.
In a civil lawsuit, Vienneau's partner alleges that his death was caused by police negligence.
Bulger, 38, and Boudreau, 26, had each faced charges of manslaughter with a weapon, assault with a weapon and unlawfully pointing a firearm.
Both officers, who were accompanied to court by family and supporters, left the courtroom Friday without comment.
The New Brunswick Police Commission, which investigates complaints related to police conduct, suspended its own investigation, saying its work wouldn't proceed until the criminal process had concluded.