QUEBEC — The parents of a man facing a second-degree murder charge spoke publicly on Monday for the first time since their son's arrest, saying tragedy could have been avoided had Quebec City police listened to their pleas for help.
Lucie Drouin and Daniel Lebel told a news conference they called police on April 4 to seek help for their son, Kim Lebel, who was experiencing a mental health crisis. Police spent 20 minutes with 30-year-old Lebel before deciding they didn't need to intervene, despite his parents' insistence they were afraid of what their son might do, Drouin said.
"At that moment, Daniel and I insisted several times that they go get him, and especially (have him) meet a psychiatrist," said Drouin, according to a transcript of her remarks.
"We insisted on our fear of the actions our son could take."
Drouin said that two days later, on April 6, a community organization helped her and her husband get a court order for a psychiatric evaluation for their son. She said they went to police later that day, urging them to enforce it quickly, insisting Lebel posed a danger to society.
However, upon arriving at the police station at noon, Drouin said she was told to sit down, adding that she had a lengthy wait before she spoke to an officer.
"At that moment, I repeated to the police officer the situation — psychosis, danger for us and society, and for him as well," she said.
After another wait, she said she tried again: "Hurry up, send a patrol. It's dangerous — quick, do something!" she said she told the officer.
The parents said they arrived home at about 3:30 p.m. to witness their son "in full crisis."
Police arrived at the residence some four hours after the family had first gone to the police station, Drouin said. By then, a number of people had called 911 to report Lebel had allegedly attacked and killed 65-year-old Jacques Côté.
Lebel has since been charged with second-degree murder in the death. His family said he had a long history of mental illness.
"(Police) didn't take us seriously despite all the steps that we, as parents, took," Drouin said. "This tragedy should never have happened. Everything was in place to avoid it."
Quebec's police watchdog has launched an investigation into the actions of city police involved in the case. The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes confirmed some details of the parents' story in an April 8 news release, including that one of the suspect's parents called Quebec City police two days before the incident to express concern about him.
The watchdog has said it would not comment further to avoid compromising its investigation.
Lebel and Drouin began their news conference by offering their condolences to Côté's family and by thanking the community organization and the judge who helped them get the court order.
The couple's lawyer, Marc Bellemare, told the news conference the family is considering legal action against the police.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2022.
— By Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.
The Canadian Press