MONTREAL — A stagehand who survived the 2012 Quebec election-night shooting that killed a colleague testified Tuesday he still wishes he could have done more for his fallen co-worker.
Guillaume Parisien described to the court the events of Sept. 4, 2012, testifying that he was standing outside the downtown Montreal venue by the back stairs when there was an explosion, followed by a fire. He said his colleague was hit by a bullet and fell onto him.
Richard Henry Bain was convicted in 2016 on one count of second-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder for the shooting outside the Metropolis as then-premier-designate Pauline Marois delivered a victory speech inside. Lighting technician Denis Blanchette was shot to death in the attack, and a second technician, David Courage, was injured after being struck by the same bullet that killed his colleague.
"It was absolute terror," Parisien recounted. "I said to myself, I should have taken a moment to see if Denis was OK, to see if I could put pressure on his wounds … I could have at least beaten him (the gunman)."
Parisien is among four colleagues who were present the night of the shooting and who are suing the City of Montreal and Quebec’s attorney general for a total of more than $600,000. The plaintiffs allege the municipal and provincial police forces failed to properly evaluate the risks associated with the event and that there were no police stationed outside the back door of the downtown venue or at other key areas.
The plaintiffs say they suffered post-traumatic stress and other psychological damage due to the shooting. They are each seeking $125,000, as well as several thousand dollars each for therapy. They are also seeking a total of $100,000 in punitive damages.
Parisien told Superior Court Justice Philippe Bélanger how he was called at the last minute to help take down the stage at Montreal's Metropolis concert hall, arriving not long before the shooting took place. On the stand, Parisien was fidgeting with a pen, often interspersing swear words into his testimony. He recalled an explosion, a fire and Blanchette's bag hitting the ground before the man fell on top of him.
The witness said the convicted shooter was wearing a bath robe, a mask and carrying what he described as a massive weapon.
"Everyone was asking (after) what happened to Denis, but I knew in the moment before everyone else that he was dead," Parisien said.
Parisien expressed anger at the lack of police presence at the venue, telling the court there's more security at movie theatres.
He said that following the shooting he felt shame, anger and stress and he suffered panic attacks and nightmares. During his testimony, he touched his shoulder where Blanchette fell on him and where he still feels pain.
Parisien told the court he has struggled with alcohol and drug problems since September 2012, describing his consumption as "multiplied exponentially by the factor of a lot." He admitted to taking cocaine before and during his deposition with city lawyers in 2018.
During Tuesday's hearing, the court heard a 911 recording of Parisien reporting the shooting. Upon hearing it, he became visibly upset.
“I don’t like talking about it,” he told his lawyer. “Because what I feel, it hurts my heart and in my head.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in March 2019, says the plaintiffs experienced “periods of depression and alcohol and/or drug dependence and have experienced feelings of shame and guilt” stemming from the trauma.
The case continues this week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2022.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press