(Gazette) Passerby dies and Montreal police shoot, kill man with knife

Surete du Quebec investigate one of two crime scenes where a double shooting took place June 7, 2011 involving Montreal police on Rue St Denis in between St Catherine and Rene Levesque in Montreal.

Photograph by: Bryanna Bradley, Montreal Gazette

By Max Harrold and Katherine Wilton, Postmedia NewsJune 7, 2011

MONTREAL — Montreal police shot and killed two men Tuesday morning, one who was being pursued by officers and a passerby on his way to work at nearby St. Luc Hospital.

Mario Hamel, 40, was shot and killed after brandishing a knife at police officers, Const. Andre Leclerc said.

It is not yet clear whether the passerby, whose name has not been released, was struck by a ricochet or a stray bullet fired by police. The man spent the day in critical condition fighting for his life but shortly after 6 p.m., Sgt. Claude Denis of Quebec provincial police announced the man had died.

Police were responding to a disturbance call when the incident started.

Two police officers found Hamel using a knife to cut through garbage bags about 6:30 a.m. Police chased him for a few blocks where the shooting occurred.

Hamel lived at a rooming house run by an organization that works with itinerant people. He was known to have psychiatric problems.

Terry Witwicki, a contractor who was working steps from the scene of the shootings, had just parked his car about 6:30 a.m. when he heard gunshots. He and some other demolition workers rushed around the corner and saw the bloodied hospital worker on the sidewalk.

« We all heard, like ‘bang, bang’ and these guys said, ‘Hey, somebody’s shot,’  » Witwicki said. « So I just advanced a few feet and I saw a body, like 10 feet away from me and they yelled out, ‘Don’t go there, don’t touch.’  »

« I just saw a pool of blood on the sidewalk. The guy was not moving. » He did not see any police officers near the injured bystander at that point, he added. But within a minute, police cars blocked off the area.

Lucie Dufresne, a hospital spokeswoman, confirmed the passerby was an employee of St. Luc, but wouldn’t confirm the man’s name or his job at the hospital.

Quebec provincial police officers are investigating the shooting. It is standard policy in Quebec that another police force investigate police-involved shootings causes a death or serious injury.

Several hours after the shooting, a provincial police spokesman said that Hamel had « threatened someone he knew » before police intervened. However, Sgt. Claude Denis couldn’t say where that incident allegedly occurred.

A man who works in the rooming house where Hamel lived said the he probably left the residence at 6 a.m., a half-hour before he was shot. He added that he was surprised to hear Hamel had been going through garbage.

« He never brought any garbage back here, » the worker said.

Richard Dupuis, a former commander of the Montreal police major crimes unit, said on LCN TV that he was told by investigators on the case that four police officers were wrestling with the man to get him to drop the knife.

« He was having a crisis and when you are trying to subdue a person with a knife you have to be fairly close to them, » Dupuis said. « You cannot let this person get away in downtown Montreal at rush hour. He turns on you and you have a split-second to react. »

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