March held for man fatally shot by police in northern New Brunswick

TRACADIE-SHEILA, N.B. -- More than 100 people marched through the small town of Tracadie-Sheila, N.B., on Tuesday to pay tribute to a local businessman shot dead a year ago during a police drug investigation that went awry.

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In November, RCMP charged two Bathurst City Police officers in the death of 51-year-old Michel Vienneau, who was shot in his vehicle near the Bathurst train station on Jan. 12, 2014.

The Mounties have said their investigation revealed that Vienneau was not involved in criminal activity.

A lawsuit filed by Vienneau's common-law partner, Annick Basque, alleges that his death was caused by police negligence.

In response to Basque's lawsuit, the City of Bathurst filed a statement of defence saying 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.

Camille McLaughlin, a local businessman and a friend of Vienneau's for more than 20 years, said Tuesday's march was organized as a memorial for a good neighbour and as a protest against the way local police have acted.

The march started at the local church and ended at the shopping centre where Vienneau had owned an electronics store for many years.

A news conference was later held at the mall, where questions were raised about police conduct and there were calls for the resignation of the police chief, McLaughlin said.

"As friends, we don't want this to happen again," McLaughlin said in an interview. "It was terrible what happened."

McLaughlin said he was with Vienneau and Basque in Montreal before the pair boarded the train headed for Bathurst.

Constables Patrick Bulger, 38, and Mathieu Boudreau, 26, are each facing charges of manslaughter with a weapon, assault with a weapon and unlawfully pointing a firearm. Both have yet to enter pleas.

The officers are scheduled to return to court Feb. 3.

Bathurst City Police Chief Eugene Poitras has said the two officers have been suspended until the court process is concluded.

The RCMP in Nova Scotia were asked to investigate the incident and handed their findings to New Brunswick's Public Prosecution Service last summer.

The New Brunswick Police Commission, which investigates complaints related to police conduct, has suspended its investigation until the criminal process concludes.



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