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Maureen Breau, Quebec police officer, stabbed and killed during arrest

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A Quebec provincial police officer was fatally stabbed Monday night while performing an arrest in Louiseville, west of Trois-Rivieres, Que.

The Surete du Quebec (SQ) has confirmed the identity of the officer, Sgt. Maureen Breau, who had been on the force for over 20 years. She was assigned to the post of the MRC de Maskinonge.

Another officer was injured during the incident, but their life is not in danger.

Breau and her colleague were trying to arrest a 35-year-old man accused of uttering threats at around 8:30 p.m., near Saint-Aime St. and Saint-Laurent Ave., according to preliminary information handed over to Quebec's independent investigations bureau, the BEI.

While the officers were reading the alleged perpetrator his rights, the man reportedly picked up a blade and struck Breau. A police source told CTV News the weapon was likely a sword.

Two other officers at the scene then shot and killed the man.

Montreal police have opened a parallel investigation, and a command post has been parked at the scene. The BEI did not provide further information on the nature of the alleged threats.

'MY HERO'

Breau's sister, reached on Facebook, said the family was asking for privacy. "My big sister will always be my hero," she wrote in a message to the The Canadian Press. 

Yvon Deshaies, the mayor of Louiseville, said he had learned from the building's landlord and police that the suspect was disruptive and had started conflicts with neighbours -- some of whom he had allegedly accused of stealing his cats.

"Everybody was scared of him," he said.

Deshaies also suggested the suspect had previously been institutionalized for mental health issues, although the mayor did not provide a source for that information.

"He shouldn’t have been here," he told reporters. "He should have been in an institution, getting healed. He was sick."

Police tape cordons off the scene after a Quebec provincial police officer was killed while trying to arrest a man in Louiseville, Que., Tuesday, March 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

'SHE HAD A LOT OF EXPERIENCE'

Quebec provincial police Chief Insp. Patrice Cardinal said Breau was in her early 40s and had two children. Her partner is also a provincial police officer, he said. Breau's two decades of police work were mostly spent on patrol or supervising patrol teams, he said in a phone interview.

"She had a lot of experience, for every kind of event or police intervention," he said.

"It is with great sadness that I learned of Sergeant Breau's death," SQ General Director Johanne Beausoleil told officers Monday night. "I offer my deepest condolences to her spouse, her children, her family and her colleagues."

Jacques Painchaud, the president of an association representing provincial police officers, confirmed the police intervention originated in a mental health call -- a situation that has become increasingly frequent, he said.

He told reporters at the scene that Breau was stabbed in the neck and there was little that could have been done to help her.

Painchaud said Breau was working an overtime shift when she was stabbed. She was four days away from starting a new job as an investigator, he added. "She was a mother with two young children. She gave her life for the mission."

MORE TRAINING NEEDED: RETIRED OFFICER  

Officers need more training with firearms in high-risk interventions, said Andre Gelinas, a retired detective-sergeant with the Montreal police.

"Training is never enough. You cannot be prepared for everything," he said. "You get into a call where someone is in crisis, and you never know what kind of threat that person can represent."

Police officers need the support of the community in times like these, he added.

"The more we invest in training… the more we save lives. Not only do we save more lives on the police side, but we also save more lives on the civilian side," he said.

Montreal police have launched a parallel investigation following the stabbing death of a provincial officer in Louiseville, Que., west of Trois-Rivieres Monday night. (Cosmo Santamaria, CTV News)

REACTION: 'I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO THANK THEM ENOUGH'

"I’m wishing a fast and full recovery to the officer who was injured. We're keeping you all in our thoughts," wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on social media. 

"I’m sending my condolences to Sergeant Maureen Breau’s family, friends, and Surete du Quebec colleagues," he wrote.  

Quebec Premier Francois Legault called the event "appalling" online. He said he would work with the province's minister responsible for social services to ensure that mental health cases are treated urgently when a person is deemed to be a risk of violence to themselves or others.

Public Safety Minister Francois Bonnardel expressed condolences to Breau's colleagues.

"Today, my thoughts are with the Surete du Quebec and all the police officers in the province," wrote Bonnardel Tuesday morning. "I will never be able to thank them enough for their sacrifices." 

First Nations and Inuit Relations Minister Ian Lafreniere, who was formerly a spokesperson for the Montreal police, also reacted online. 

"This morning, not only the police community, but all of Quebec is in shock," he wrote. "To colleagues, relatives and the large police family ... We are all with you."

Granby, Que. police paused their morning operations for a moment of silence Tuesday, as officers lined the sidewalk outside a local station to mourn. 

The police department wrote that the event demonstrates just how dangerous community policing can be. 

"Sergeant Maureen Breau of the Sûreté du Québec lost her life in the line of duty," wrote Granby police. "We offer our deepest condolences to her family, colleagues and friends in this tragic event."

With files from The Canadian Press

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