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"I was never able to see Germaine Breau point the rifle at any officers."

Second full day of police testimony does not confirm a pointing gun

by Miles Howe

So far we have heard two days of testimony from police officers in the ditch adjacent to highway 134. From their vantage point, they would have been looking at Germaine Breau's backside. None have testified he pointed a gun. [Photo: Miles Howe]
So far we have heard two days of testimony from police officers in the ditch adjacent to highway 134. From their vantage point, they would have been looking at Germaine Breau's backside. None have testified he pointed a gun. [Photo: Miles Howe]

Moncton, New Brunswick – Day three of the trial of Germaine 'Junior' Breau and Aaron Francis continued today. The main matter before the court is whether Breau is guilty of five counts of pointing a firearm and whether Francis is guilty of four Molotov cocktail-related charges stemming from the RCMP raid of the anti-shale gas encampment along highway 134 that took place on October 17th.

This morning, the Crown continued to call forward 'eye-witnesses' in an attempt to pinpoint a moment where they saw either Breau point a firearm or Francis throw a Molotov cocktail.

The first witness to take the stand was Sergeant Marc Potvin, present during the pre-dawn raid. Potvin, in charge of the left flank of J division troops which were stationed along highway 134, saw “two people running into the woods” out of the “corner of [his] eye.”

These two people – bear in mind that this is the first police testimony to mention that two people ran into the woods where Molotov cocktails were allegedly being kept at the ready - could not be identified by Potvin.

It is important to note that yesterday, two RCMP officers testified that only one individual ran into the woods just prior to the Molotov cocktails being thrown.

Potvin then testified that from his position he “got a good view” of someone handling a gun beside a van, stationed along Hannay road, but that the gun was “pointed mostly towards the ground.” Potvin did not identify the two people he said were handling the gun, nor did he testify that at any point he saw the gun being aimed or pointed.

Again, it is important to note that Potvin's position in the ditch along highway 134 would have been facing the backside of whoever was handling the gun.

The next Crown witness was Yann Audoux, a team leader with the Emergency Response Team (ERT). In his testimony, Audoux noted that he saw two individuals handling the gun and that he could positively identify the gun handlers as Breau and Francis. Audoux also testified that when he arrested Breau, ammunition fell out of the pocket of the 'hoodie' he was wearing.

It is important to note, however, that Audoux made no mention of either Breau or Francis pointing the gun during his testimony.

In his cross-examination, Audoux's testimony began to fall apart.

Firstly, defence lawyer Menard noted that Audoux's ERT team had been awake and “activated' since the morning of October 15th. This means that by conservative accounts he and other members of his ERT – most of whom were armed with 9 millimetre pistols and M-16s – had been awake for over 30 hours.

The inference, of course, is that powers of observation and ability to recall memories might be significantly decreased after staying aware for a full day and night.

In defence lawyer Menard's cross-examination, Audoux's faculty of memory was brought into serious question. Audoux noted that for the duration of the “two to two and a half hour standoff” that someone was always handling the gun in question beside cover of a mini-van.

This is in contradiction to other RCMP testimony and is in fact false. RCMP video shows the initial standoff, with a gun being handled, lasts only for a portion of the total raid.

Secondly, even though nobody was handling the gun for the duration of the stand-off, whoever wasn't handling the gun certainly could not have been Breau and Francis. RCMP testimony and video evidence show both Breau and Francis wandering around Hannay road, engaging RCMP officers in banter, as well as going in and out of the trailer area in the adjacent field.

Audoux also noted that he had no evidence to give as related to the throwing of the Molotov cocktails.

Next to the stand was Constable Eric Jean, the member of the ERT team who fired less-lethal rounds at the Molotov cocktail thrower on the morning of the 17th. Jean noted that it was still dark at the time that he visually saw the thrower and only looked at the individual for a period of “a couple of seconds” before firing his weapon. The individual then ran into the woods.

Jean described the individual as wearing camouflage clothing and a camouflage mask. This is in contradiction to every other RCMP testimony to this point, which identify the thrower as wearing a black balaclava.

In his original notes, Jean says that the thrower was “10 meters in the forest line.”

“He had dark, tanned skin,” said Jean. “I cannot say I can identify him.”

Jean, also a member of the ERT with lethal oversight, noted that he had slept for “two to two and a half hours” since being 'activated' on October 15th. This suggests that he would have been awake in excess of 24 hours before sleeping a brief period and then engaging in the October 17th raid.

Next to the stand was Constable Steve Shannon, a member of the Tactical Troop. Shannon remained certain throughout his testimony that the person throwing the Molotov cocktails was indeed Aaron Francis and that he had only seen one person handling the rifle, and that person was Germaine Breau.

Menard's cross-examination again focused on the ever-increasing level of detail that Shannon brought to his written reports outlining his observations of the events of October 17th.

Shannon's initial handwritten notes, made on the 17th, did not contain any description of the individual he felt was throwing the Molotovs, aside from noting it was an individual wearing camouflage clothing. Shannon's 14 page series of notes he wrote down that evening also did not contain any more of a description of the Molotov thrower.

The notes did, however, describe the gun handler as 'Brun', who he interpreted as being Germaine Breau.

“My notes aren't my exact memory,” said Shannon in response to Menard's questioning of his initial lack of detail. “They are meant to prompt my memory so that I can testify in court.”

Menard's continued to bring Shannon's memory into doubt by referencing the meetings, prompts and inter-departmental emails concerning Breau, Francis and a third individual, William Clair. The suggestion was that it was these interactions that created the possibility of a 'shared group' memory of the events, and that Shannon's supplementary report, written over a month later for investigating officer Blakely, was more a result of this than of Shannon's actual memories.

“I'm not a memory specialist,” responded Shannon.

Next up on the stand was Al Comeaux of the Emergency Response Team. Comeaux, through previous interactions with other RCMP departments, was aware of Germaine Breau prior to the October 17th raid. Comeaux, in his testimony, was certain that he saw Breau - and only Breau - with the firearm. RCMP officers in similar positioning to Comeaux, which is to say in a ditch adjacent to highway 134, have earlier testified that there were at least two individuals, and sometimes three, who were handling the rifle.

In any case, Comeaux's testimony did not confirm that Breau pointed the rifle, which is the central issue of his trial. In fact, Comeaux testified that although he was keeping his attention focused on Breau and the mini-van behind which he was seeking coer, he never saw him once point the rifle.

"I was never able to see Germaine Breau point the rifle at any of the officers," said Comeaux.

Comeaux had no testimony related to the Molotov cocktails.

Although the trial was initially scheduled to end on Friday afternoon, we learned this afternoon that the Crown has eleven more witnesses to call, which makes a Friday ending doubtful.

 


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