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New Brunswick orders inquest into police shooting death of businessman

Last Updated Nov 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm EST

FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick government says the circumstances of the 2015 police shooting death of a New Brunswick businessman outside a train station will get a public airing in court.

The Attorney General’s office says it has ordered chief coroner Gregory Forestell to hold an inquest into the death of Michel Vienneau, a 51-year-old Tracadie, N.B., store owner who was shot in his vehicle in Bathurst.

On Monday, the provincial prosecution service had announced it would not further appeal a February ruling dismissing criminal charges against two police officers in the death.

Const. Patrick Bulger and Const. Mathieu Boudreau had been charged with manslaughter with a weapon, assault with a weapon and unlawfully pointing a firearm in Vienneau’s Jan. 12, 2015, death.

Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman ruled that the prosecution failed to produce enough evidence to warrant a trial, and her decision was upheld last month by Court of Queens Bench Judge Tracey DeWare.

The province says an inquest is an opportunity for public presentation of “all evidence” in a formal court proceeding, and to make recommendations for preventing future deaths.

“The coroner does not assign responsibility or blame for a death. The report of an investigation or inquest determines the identity of the deceased and clarifies the facts and circumstances of the death,” the province says in a release.

“This inquest will provide a forum for a full review of the circumstances and will allow a jury to consider preventative measures.”

Bulger and Boudreau, who are Bathurst City Police officers, were charged by the RCMP in November 2015. The Mounties said their investigation revealed that Vienneau was not involved in criminal activity.

A subsequent lawsuit filed by Vienneau’s common-law partner, Annick Basque, alleges his death was due to police negligence.

The City of Bathurst statement of defence says the officers were investigating whether the couple were in possession of illegal drugs after returning from a trip to Montreal.

The statement also says the officers clearly identified themselves to Vienneau and had tried to stop his vehicle before it accelerated, pinning an officer against a snowbank. It says one officer fired at the car as it moved toward his colleague.

None of the lawsuit’s allegations or statement of defence have been proven in court.

Vienneau’s mother, Sylvie Vienneau, has questioned why police didn’t arrest her son after he got off the train, rather than wait until he got in his car. And she asked who had told them he would be carrying drugs.

“Our son is not in the drug world,” she said in an October 2015 statement.