Two Montreal police officers lied about 2017 death of detainee: ethics board
MONTREAL — Quebec's police ethics board has found that two Montreal officers lied to investigators who were looking into the 2017 death of a man in custody.
In his ruling, administrative judge Benoit Mc Mahon said constables Mathieu Paré and Dominic Gagné knew that information they entered on an intake form about the 23-year-old man's medical condition was inaccurate and they made false statements to investigators from the province's police watchdog.
"They tried to explain the inexplicable, but neglected to consider that they were filmed during the booking process," Mc Mahon wrote in his decision, rendered last week.
David Tshiteya Kalubi died on Nov. 8, 2017, in a holding cell at the Montreal municipal courthouse. He was awaiting an appearance before a judge after being arrested the night before on two outstanding warrants.
During the booking process at a Montreal police station after the arrest, Gagné, who has since been promoted to detective-sergeant, asked Kalubi if he suffered from any medical conditions. Kalubi told the officer that he had anemia and took medication for it — an interaction that was caught on video.
However, Paré wrote on the intake form that was then sent to detention officials at the courthouse that Kalubi did not have a medical condition or take any medication.
In his written account submitted to the police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, Paré did not mention asking Kalubi if he had a medical conditions or took medication.
During a later interview, an investigator asked Paré if he might have written that Kalubi had no medical condition reflexively or out of habit. Paré insisted that if he wrote "No," that was what he was told by Kalubi. Shown the video contradicting his story by investigators, Paré ended the interview.
In Gagné's written account, he said Kalubi had told him he did not have any medical conditions.
"The difference between what was said at the booking procedure and what he reported to the BEI is striking," Mc Mahon wrote. "When asked to explain these major contradictions, the police officer launched into a rambling and implausible gymnastics of justification. His testimony is not credible."
Mc Mahon wrote that Gagné suggested without evidence that he may have been distracted by someone speaking on the police radio when Kalubi was answering his questions about medication and that when he heard Kalubi took folic acid for his anemia, in addition to prescription medicine, he didn't consider it a "treatment plan" because pregnant women often take folic acid as a supplement and aren't sick.
"These feeble explanations are unbelievable. The board rejects them," the judge wrote.
Mc Mahon found that the two officers violated two articles of the police ethics code by making false statements as well as by showing negligence or a lack of concern for Kalubi's well-being.
In 2019, Quebec prosecutors decided that the actions of the two officers did not constitute criminal negligence and that Kalubi's inability to access his anemia medication was unrelated to the heart condition that killed him.
Sanctions against the two officers will be decided by the ethics board at a later date.
The lawyer who represented Gagné and Paré before the board did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press