Prosecutors seeking to revive case against Bathurst officers in man's death
Michel Vienneau, 51, died after he was shot near the Bathurst train station in January 2015. (Facebook)
FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick prosecutors have taken the unusual step of seeking a judicial review of a judge's decision in a bid to revive a high-profile case involving a fatal police shooting in Bathurst, N.B., two years ago.
The province's Public Prosecutions Services issued a brief statement Tuesday alleging the presiding judge was wrong to throw out manslaughter charges against two officers in the shooting death of a Tracadie businessman.
The Crown lawyers say the judge made a jurisdictional error by failing to consider all of the relevant evidence at the conclusion of the officers' preliminary hearing in February.
Const. Patrick Bulger and Const. Mathieu Boudreau were charged in the death of 51-year-old Michel Vienneau, who was shot in his vehicle outside the Bathurst train station on Jan. 12, 2015.
The officers were investigating whether Vienneau and his common-law partner were in possession of illegal drugs after returning from a trip to Montreal.
On Feb. 24, Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman ruled in Bathurst provincial court that the prosecution failed to produce enough evidence to warrant a trial, and she dropped the charges against the officers.
At the time, there was applause in the packed courtroom and both police officers wept. Neither spoke as they left the courtroom.
The statement Tuesday from the prosecution service says Crown lawyers would not comment further as the matter is before the courts.
Defence lawyer T.J. Burke issued a statement on behalf of both officers on Tuesday.
"This has taken a significant emotional toll on both individuals," he said. "(It) has disrupted what otherwise has been a time where they were prepared to reintegrate into their workforce and continue to serve the City of Bathurst as police officers."
In a civil lawsuit, Vienneau's partner alleges that his death was caused by police negligence.
In a statement of defence, the City of Bathurst said the officers clearly identified themselves to Vienneau while he and his partner were in their car. However, the lawsuit alleges that Vienneau's vehicle accelerated, pinning one officer against a snowbank. It says another officer fired at the car as it moved toward his colleague.
An RCMP investigation later found that Vienneau, who owned an electronics store, was not involved in criminal activity.
Bulger, 38, and Boudreau, 26, had each faced charges of manslaughter with a weapon, assault with a weapon and unlawfully pointing a firearm.
Bathurst City Police Chief Eugene Poitras said previously the two officers had been suspended with pay until the court process was concluded.
The New Brunswick Police Commission, which investigates complaints related to police conduct, suspended its own investigation, saying their work wouldn't proceed until the criminal process had concluded.
-- By Michael MacDonald in Halifax