Death of Martin Collard in Sept-Îles in 2015: the intervention of the SQ called into question

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Death of Martin Collard in Sept-Îles in 2015: the intervention of the SQ called into question

In an unexpected twist, the Attorney General of Quebec, who represents the Sûreté du Québec in a lawsuit brought by the family of Martin Collard, admits that the police intervention was not “entirely in accordance with the rules of the art” , but maintains that she would not have caused him any harm.

Gaétane Collard in front of the Sept-Îles Hospital where her brother Martin lost his life.

The phone rang a little before 4 a.m. at Gaétane Collard's house on the night of October 5, 2015.

She knew right away that the call was from her brother. At 36, Martin Collard, the youngest of a tight-knit family, hadn't been well for a few days due to a romantic breakup.

At the end of the line, he confesses having used cocaine and complains of feeling palpitations. His sister advises him to walk to the hospital, a few streets away.

Before accepting, he asks Gaétane to swear on his daughter's head that he will come out alive. She replies: Sure, they're here to help.

I promised anyway, says Gaétane today, with emotion.

On discovering him confused and agitated in front of the main door of the establishment, a nurse believes it necessary to call the police.

Two Sûreté du Québec (SQ) patrol officers quickly arrive on the scene. Less than half an hour later, when Gaétane arrived in turn, Martin was lying on the ground, handcuffed and in cardiopulmonary arrest.

He never regained consciousness.

“I can't imagine even today after 6 and a half years that my brother died like this. »

— Gaétane

Since then, the Collard family has been trying to piece together what happened.

Martin Collard

The documents filed as part of the lawsuit are rich in detail on how the intervention took place.

We learn that the police quickly tried to subdue Martin, which created a lot of tension and probably contributed to the dramatic outcome of events.

I heard someone running in the street, then people shouting, says Amélie Thibault, who lived just opposite and who was awakened by the noise. She observed the scene from her balcony.

She told Inquiry that she saw the police running after the man who did not have the Looked dangerous, she said, but rather scared. The person seemed to be in a panic, then all they wanted was to run away.

Martin Collard came back to the main door of the hospital and that's when a policeman grabbed him from behind to subdue him. I made a neckline and we ended up on the ground, can we read in the policeman's account of the events.

The neckline, also called a chokehold carotid artery, consists of exerting pressure on the carotid arteries, on either side of the neck, in order to interrupt the blood flow to the brain. Done well, it results in unconsciousness within seconds.

Michael Arruda observes on a video tape that we show him the police intervention outside the Sept-Îles Hospital .

The footage captured by a surveillance camera inside the hospital is unequivocal: Martin remained conscious and struggled for more than two minutes to free himself while waving vigorously the legs.

If the carotid choke was done right, he wouldn't kick. He would have fainted, notes Charles Dempsey, who worked for 30 years for the Los Angeles police and who is a pioneer in North America in the training of police officers in crisis intervention.

When done incorrectly, Charles Dempsey explains, this technique of powerful physical control is dangerous. It can obstruct the airway and should never be held longer than 30 to 60 seconds, or brain function may be impaired.

Carotid strangulation is only used 'as a last resort, when a life is threatened, again according to the expert. In this case, it was far from being his last resort. There are plenty of other tools he could have used to gain control.

The neckline technique on the models on the left is correct. Poorly executed, it risks obstructing the airways (models on the right).

In a court document, the police officer in question admitted that Martin Collard was not threatening, but that he was afraid of seeing him flee.

What was the urgency to act?, asks Michael Arruda, ex-policeman at the SPVM and today a trainer in crisis intervention, and one of the few experts in Quebec. It's something you teach and repeat: you never touch someone who is in crisis because you never know how that person will react.

Martin had almost completely undressed before fleeing and was unarmed.

He had not committed any crime, continues the expert. It is someone who is in distress. Is it someone who is disturbing, more than dangerous?

Rather, it is recommended to promote communication and de-escalation to increase the chances of resolving the situation peacefully. Everything indicates that such an approach could have worked with Martin Collard.

A member of the hospital staff who was on the scene the evening of the tragedy told Inquiry that they were about to convince him to enter of his own free will, but that the sudden arrival of the police and the tone they used would have caused the man to panic.

In addition to the two ex-police officers consulted by Inquiry, five other medical and police experts whose analyzes have been filed in the court file criticize the police intervention. It can be read that the extended neckline as well as the prone position in which Martin Collard was, combined with the stress caused by the drug, are all factors that may have contributed to the cardiorespiratory arrest.

One of the harshest analyses, written by Marco Sivilotti, a physician and professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Queen's University in Toronto, calls the pathologist's conclusions grossly misleading and erroneous, considering it highly unlikely that the police intervention may have contributed to the deaths.

Pathologist André Bourgault, of the Laboratory of Forensic Sciences and Forensic Medicine, and coroner Bernard Lefrançois instead attribute the death to cocaine poisoning .

The risk of sudden death under duress is however well documented, recalls ex-policeman Michael Arruda. We have known about the existence of this phenomenon for at least thirty years […] You have to be careful when you meet someone who is in this state.

Michael Arruda, former SPVM police officer.

The Guide to Police Practices (see C.8), which constitutes the reference for police forces in Quebec, stipulates that a person in a state of excited delirium, as police described Martin that evening, is at risk of sudden death during or after intense physical exertion.

The police should have treated his case as a medical emergency and waited for the arrival of reinforcements before attempting to intervene, according to Michael Arruda, even if it meant letting Martin walk around following him in the almost deserted streets at that time.

We must have a plan, we must know how we are going to bring him to the emergency room, adds Charles Dempsey. It is very important to have sufficient resources. This is extremely important. If you intervene too quickly, you risk finding yourself in a situation where the results can be bad. Really bad.

Charles Dempsey, specialist in police training in crisis intervention

When the reinforcements arrived, Martin Collard was still in the grip of a neckline and it was when handcuffing him that one of them realized that the man was inert. Resuscitation maneuvers were undertaken.

The emergency personnel refused to come out to the landing to help him, mistakenly believing that he would not be protected by insurance. Only a nurse went there and tried in turn to resuscitate Martin Collard, without success.

She called for a stretcher to transport him inside, where we managed to revive his heart, but the victim never regained consciousness.

Despite everything, the Côte-Nord Integrated Health and Social Services Center believes that the patient received all the care required.

In an unexpected reversal, the Attorney General of Quebec, who represents the SQ in the file, has recently changed its position and admits that in retrospect, the police intervention was not entirely in accordance with the rules of the art. However, he denies that it caused harm to Martin Collard.

The Sûreté du Québec and the CISSS declined our interview requests, due to the ongoing litigation.

Between 2006 and 2015, 17 people died under police duress while they were under the influence of stimulants, according to studies carried out by the National Police School of Quebec.

The figure disturbs Michael Arruda, who has been trying for years to make police organizations aware of the importance of training and maintaining skills, when around a quarter of the calls received are from crisis situations where the mental state of a person is altered.

At the de-escalation level, at the crisis intervention level, at the communication level, unfortunately, there are very few police services that give this training to the police, while the responsibility lies with them, he says.

The consequences are sometimes dramatic for the victims, but also for the police officers who remain marked by these events. Things are not changing fast enough according to the ex-police officer, who has testified in several public coroner's inquiries on this issue and who considers that the improvements promised many times are slow in coming.

We leave the patrol officers to themselves, continues Michael Arruda. As long as we have not changed our ways of doing things, that the organizations, the police services have not understood, have not fully grasped what we should be doing, unfortunately, this is not a unique case, there will be others […] and there are still parents who will lose children, people who will die. And police officers whose careers will be compromised, he concludes.

You are not alone, adds Charles Dempsey, whose expertise is now sought by many police forces in North America, including Canada. It's a challenge. Tragedies are also opportunities for self-improvement. This should not be seen as a reprimand, but rather as an opportunity to make changes so that another Martin never happens again.

Gaétane Collard was in contact with her brother the evening of the police intervention in front of the hospital in Sept-Îles.

Martin Collard's family is suing the police and the hospital hoping that all the light will be shed on the events. She finds it hard to accept that the authorities do not recognize any part of the responsibility in Martin's death.

It would have been so easy to admit wrongs, believes Gaétane Collard. The pain would be there, but the family would not have all these questions.

The report by Sylvie Fournier and Sonia Desmarais is broadcast on Enquête on Thursday at 9 p.m. on ICI Télé.

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