RCMP spokesman during Dziekanski case had 'rage in his head,' widow says | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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RCMP spokesman during Dziekanski case had 'rage in his head,' widow says

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November 26, 2018 - 6:30 PM

BURNABY, B.C. - The last time Pierre Lemaitre put on his RCMP uniform with pride, it was Oct. 14, 2007, the day he responded to a call about a fatal police confrontation at Vancouver's airport, his widow says.

He was never the same after Robert Dziekanski's death, Sheila Lemaitre testified Monday at a coroner's inquest into her husband's death by suicide.

"He wasn't my husband," she said. "Pierre changed from being the most caring, loving, sweetest husband. ... He got progressively angrier and more and more anxious."

Lemaitre handled media relations for the Mounties in the days following Dziekanski's death and was later accused of misleading the public. However, an inquiry into the Polish immigrant's death concluded Lemaitre didn't know some of the information he had given was inaccurate.

Sheila Lemaitre testified that on the day of the airport altercation, he communicated the information he was told to give to media. It was only a day later that he learned a citizen-shot video existed that contradicted some of his statements, she said.

He had told reporters that Dziekanski was stunned with a Taser twice, but the man had been jolted five times. Lemaitre also repeatedly described him as "combative," but the video showed he was relatively calm when RCMP officers arrived.

Lemaitre immediately urged his supervisors to allow him to correct the information, but he was ordered not to, she said.

"It progressed, then, rather quickly into a very difficult situation," she said. "Pierre was very upset when he would return home after work after that."

Media reports described her husband as an RCMP spin doctor and liar, she said, and that upset him. He would scream at the TV that he wanted to correct the information he had given out to reporters.

"He wasn't allowed to," she said. "It was really hard for him."

Lemaitre was transferred off the case after two days and eventually moved to the traffic department, which he compared to "being put out with the trash," his widow said. He felt belittled and disrespected by his colleagues, with one calling him "redundant," she said.

Her husband had suffered from anxiety and depression for years and was first prescribed medication in 1993. It was related in part to traumatic scenes he'd witnessed as an officer and his estrangement from his daughters after his divorce from his first wife, she said.

But it grew much worse after Dziekanski's death and he took several stress leaves from work.

Her once caring husband who felt strongly about women's rights became abusive, said Lemaitre, who is a former police officer.

"He couldn't explain to me why he was angry sometimes, or why he was feeling the way he was, why he was so anxious," she said.

He described it as a "rage in his head, burning in his brain" that he couldn't control, she said.

He also began buying model trains and planes, but she said he would never finish building them. He accrued large credit card debts, she said.

About four weeks before his death he switched medications, and when she expressed concerns about side effects, she recalled him replying, "I have to try something. I can't live like this."

On the morning of his death, there was TV news coverage about a verdict that was set to come out in the perjury trial of an officer involved in the Dziekanski case. She muted the TV and switched channels, but he may have seen it, Lemaitre recalled.

He seemed quiet that morning, but she followed her usual routine of walking their dogs and picking blueberries on their farm in Abbotsford. When she returned home, Lemaitre said she found her husband's body in the basement.

"I said, 'Oh no. No,' " she remembered through tears.

She said she believes he had made up his mind about killing himself days earlier. He had done errands that involved heavy lifting, which she couldn't do because of an injury.

She said Lemaitre always dreamed of becoming a police officer and he knew he would see upsetting scenes. But he was always able to pick himself up from those experiences, she said.

"What we have difficulty with is when we're beset with attacks from within. It's a whole other issue when ... you don't have that internal support, when the people you work with are the source of that pressure and pain," Sheila Lemaitre testified.

"That's when Pierre could no longer pick himself up."

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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