Robert Dziekanski died after being tasered at Vancouver International Airport in 2007. (File photo)

Robert Dziekanski died after being tasered at Vancouver International Airport in 2007. (File photo)

RCMP spokesman spiralled into rage, depression after Dziekanski case, inquest hears

Pierre Lemaitre had been face of RCMP after Robert Dziekanski’s Taser-inflicted death at YVR in 2007

Editor’s note: The story below includes details about suicide and domestic abuse that some readers may find disturbing.

A coroner’s inquest into the death of former RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre that began Monday revealed a man struggling with depression who spiralled towards suicide in the aftermath of Robert Dziekanski’s death at Vancouver International Airport.

Lemaitre was the media spokesperson at the time when the Polish immigrant had been fatally stunned with a Taser in October 2007, making international headlines.

Inquest counsel John Orr spoke of “traumatic incidents” in Lemaitre’s career, as well as personal and relationship problems that had escalated throughout his life.

Lemaitre’s post-traumatic stress disorder could happen “not just through traumatic events, but also through feeling unsupported at work,” Orr told the jury.

RELATED: Former RCMP spokesman dies in Abbotsford

RELATED: Cause of death confirmed for former RCMP spokesman Pierre Lemaitre

RELATED: Former Mountie who fired Taser at Robert Dziekanski drops appeal of sentence

Lemaitre was 28-year veteran of the RCMP and serving in the traffic division at the time of his death.

His widow, Sheila, told the inquest that joining the RCMP had been a lifelong dream of her husband’s and that he remained proud of his job despite a tumultuous work environment that saw him transferred and demoted after reporting a sexual assault among the force.

Although Lemaitre first sought psychiatric help in the mid-1990s to help deal with a rough divorce and the ensuing estrangement of his daughters, Sheila said her husband was a happy man up until the day Dziekanski was killed.

“It was the last time I saw him pull on his uniform with pride,” Sheila told the inquest of the morning of Oct. 14, 2007, describing an morning call telling Lemaitre he was needed at YVR.

“I didn’t see that look thereafter.”

The aftermath of Dziekanski’s death

Lemaitre would give the first RCMP statement to the media about Dziekanski’s death and how four Mounties described what happened. A video shot by a bystander would emerge a month later that told a much different story.

The footage directly contradicted many of Lemaitre’s statements about Dziekanski’s “combativeness.” It also showed the Taser being fired at Dziekanski five times, more than double what Lemaitre had said.

“Pierre was very upset when he would come home after that,” Sheila said. “He was fighting to be able to correct the information.” But his superiors were stone-faced: There would be no correction.

The RCMP did not issue an apology until years later, long after Lemaitre was no longer with the media division.

A new RCMP spokesperson apologized for misleading information about how many officers were at the scene, the number of times the fired their Tasers, and Dziekanski’s attitude during the incident.

They said Lemaitre was not at fault for the inaccurate information, but was simply passing on what was told to him.

The four constables who responded were charged with perjury after the results of Braidwood Inquiry was released in 2010.

Lemaitre would later received another blow: the promotion looming in the wings for him was a no-go. The “optics” looked bad, Sheila said.

He was sent instead to the Langley traffic division where Lemaitre told his wife of “whispers” when he entered rooms and feeling he was not treated with respect.

It wasn’t any better outside of work.

Lemaitre was no longer involved with the Dziekanski case, nor working at RCMP headquarters, but his face was still all over the news.

The Braidwood Inquiry, which looked into how police handled Dziekanski’s death, and the ensuing perjury cases, made him a household name again.

Lemaitre couldn’t handle it. He went on stress leave and began to avoid public spaces.

“He wasn’t my husband anymore,” Sheila recalled. “He wasn’t the same.”

In 2012, overhearing his own inspector call him “redundant” and seeing his police support team crumble, Lemaitre left the RCMP for the last time.

‘He would never hurt a butterfly’

The real problems were at home where Lemaitre began physically abusing Sheila.

“This man who would never hurt a butterfly. He would throw me on the ground and strangle me… bash my head into the floor,” she told the inquest.

Sheila described an incident where Lemaitre “grabbed me and threw me down the cement stairs” while helping her out of the car post-surgery.

“’I told you to stay in the car,’” Sheila described him saying. “He just looked at me, he didn’t even apologize.”

Lemaitre had been seeing a psychologist in his finals months, but he was too ashamed to tell the professional about the abuse.

“’Don’t you think I’m sorry? I couldn’t help it,’” Lemaitre would tell Sheila. “’There’s a rage in my head, I can’t shut it off.’”

Lemaitre’s last days

“I actually thought he was getting better,” and making more of an effort to help her around the house, Sheila said of the weeks before his death.

There had been no mention of suicide. She would only later learn he’d been making sure she’d be okay after his death: stocking up on water and dog food, all sorts of heavy things she couldn’t do alone.

He did let his coffee – which was a “911 situation” when it got empty – run out. But the night before the day Lemaitre died was “unremarkable,” Sheila said.

On the morning of July 29, the couple had gotten up at about 8 a.m.

Sheila had gone downstairs to make breakfast, turning on the television as was the couple’s custom before muting it, and then turned off the channel once news of the verdict in the Dziekanski perjury trial came down.

Const. Bill Bentley, the first of four officers to be charged in connection to Dziekanski’s death, was found not guilty.

But it was too late. Lemaitre had seen it.

Sheila left with one of their dogs to run an errand, and came back to find something was not quite right.

“I couldn’t see Pierre and the dogs weren’t acting like he was outside. … It felt wrong.”

She rushed into the home, searched the living room, the kitchen and the bedroom but could not find her husband.

“That concern, that worry I had, just got worse,” Sheila said

Sheila paused, swallowing and seeming to choke back tears as she described going into the basement.

“And he was hanging there. Still. There was no movement.”

Sheila told the inquest of the struggle to free Lemaitre from the rope, and of a frantic call to 911.

The first responders who arrived at the home told the inquest they found him with a “deep, purple ligature mark” on his neck and a blue-and-yellow dog leash hanging on an exercise machine beside his body.

They also found medication, including drugs for anxiety and depression.

Richard Ross, the coroner who assessed Lemaitre’s death, said the death was not an overdose and the pills found in the seven vials added up to correct dosages being taken.

Lemaitre was deemed to be “over-medicated,” and had been struggling with anxiety and depression for some time.

Sheila said told the inquest Lemaitre had been desperate to find medication that would help him, and had described a “rage in his head that was burning his brain.”

“I have to try something, I can’t live like this,” Sheila recalled him telling her.

The coroner’s inquest will continue throughout the week and is not meant to find legal fault, but to prevent similar deaths.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Outside the Kitimat RCMP police station, Diversity Morgan’s family and Kitimat RCMP come together for a pride flag-raising ceremony. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
Kitimat RCMP host pride flag ceremony in memory of Diversity Morgan

“We’re gathered here in solidarity for anyone who’s ever experienced prejudice or discrimination”

(Haisla First Nation logo)
Haisla Nation host walk for strength and series of virtual sessions for Indigenous History Month

The purpose of the walk is to bring Haisla Nation members together and show their collective support

The District of Kitimat will be awarding business owners with a store front up to $5,000 to cover up to 50 per cent of exterior renovations. (Norhtern Development logo)
The District of Kitimat is awarding $5,000 to storefront owners for exterior renovations

The district has set aside $20,000 this year and non-profits are also eligible

Ron getting loose and sipping a glass of the family’s favourite greek amber spirit, Metaxa. (Photo supplied)
In Our Valley: Ron Lechner

Retired part-time singer and Rio Tinto lifer: Ron Lechner

Map of the road work that will be completed this summer. The streets highlighted in red are what the district planned on completing before additional funding, and the streets highlighted in orange is the road works that will be done with the additional funding. (District of Kitimat photo)
$1.1 million allocated for road work this year in Kitimat

Kitimat council has added $470,000 for more work by deferring four other projects.

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Most Read