RCMP officer breaks down at coroner's inquest recalling officer's last emails
Published Wednesday, November 28, 2018 3:20PM PST Last Updated Wednesday, November 28, 2018 5:09PM PST
Robert Dziekanski holds a small table at the Vancouver Airport before he was tasered by police in this image from video. Const. Bill Bentley stands trial beginning Monday on charges of perjury for his testimony at a public inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death at Vancouver's airport. (Paul Pritchard / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
BURNABY, B.C. -- A supervisor of an RCMP officer who took his own life in 2013 broke down Wednesday as he read the last few emails exchanged between the two men to a coroner's inquest.
RCMP Supt. Denis Boucher, who was Pierre Lemaitre's supervisor when he was moved to the traffic division, tells him they could meet up for coffee and chat in one of the emails.
"Hope you're making progress in your recovery," Boucher said, reading from one of his exchanges with Lemaitre. "I just wanted to let you know that I'll always help you if I can."
A few people in the courtroom also wiped away tears as they listened to the interaction between them.
Lemaitre was a sergeant and a media spokesman for the RCMP when he released inaccurate information, which the inquest has heard he wasn't allowed to correct, about a man who died after a confrontation with police at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.
Lemaitre's former family doctor and psychologist have told the inquest he had post-traumatic stress disorder from dealing with victims of crime but the incident involving Robert Dziekanski increased his depression and anxiety.
A former media strategist for the Mounties accused the department of betraying Lemaitre, testifying that he had been "hung out to dry" by his superiors who wouldn't allow him to set the record straight. Atoya Montague told the inquest that Lemaitre was used to tell a false story about the death of Dziekanski, a Polish man who couldn't speak English and became agitated after wandering around the airport arrivals area for 10 hours.
After the incident, Lemaitre told reporters that officers approached a combative man and jolted him twice with a Taser. But two days later he watched a video from a witness that showed Dziekanski was relatively calm when the Mounties arrived and that they used the stun gun five times.
Sheila Lemaitre said her husband was transferred off the case after two days and eventually moved to the traffic division, which he compared to "being put out with the trash." He felt belittled and disrespected by his colleagues, with one calling him "redundant," she testified earlier this week.
Boucher said Lemaitre was not redundant but an "integral part of the team."
The emails showed the two men had a close relationship.
"It's been quite a struggle dealing with this depression," Lemaitre wrote in a reply to his supervisor, adding that his doctors had changed some medication because there seemed to be no progress.
Boucher said he was aware that Lemaitre was suffering from PTSD and depression. He also described him as someone who had a strong work ethic.
Meanwhile, Lemaitre's supervisor in the media division said Lemaitre didn't seem overly stressed about the misinformation he gave the media after Dziekanski's death.
John Ward, a retired staff sergeant, said part of the job of a communications officer is to trust that the information going out to the media is largely correct.
He was asked by a juror whether the RCMP was generally aware when it gave out incorrect information.
"I can't recall where we gave out wrong information," he replied. "We were careful about the information we gave out."
Ward said he would have spoken to Lemaitre after the Dziekanski incident but there were no discussions about correcting the information because once it was out in the media, there was not much that could be done about it.
Coroner's inquests are held to hear evidence on recommendations that could be made to prevent similar deaths in the future and do not make findings of blame.