Quebec coroner hears from grieving families; concern over gunman’s medication change
Posted Sep 27, 2023 07:31:40 PM.
MONTREAL — The older brother of a mentally ill man who killed three people at random during a 24-hour shooting spree in the Montreal area last year told a coroner Wednesday he questions why his medication regime had been changed before the killings.
Sakir Shaikh said that Abdulla Shaikh’s mental health problems first arose in 2018 and resurfaced two years later, leading to two lengthy stays in hospital. But Sakir said Wednesday he questions why the hospital adjusted his brother’s medication from monthly injections to every three months, noting the next injection was scheduled for a few days after he was killed by police. He did not specify what the medication was.
Coroner Géhane Kamel is presiding over the inquiry into the August 2022 murders of André Lemieux, 64, Mohamed Belhaj, 48, and Alex Lévis Crevier, 22, as well as the death of Abdulla Shaikh, 26, who was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police at a Montreal motel. He had two ghost guns — homemade artisanal weapons — in his possession.
The inquiry heard previously that Abdulla Shaikh’s family said he was not taking his medication as prescribed.
“Losing my brother and knowing he had committed three murders was something,” Sakir Shaikh told the coroner.
Sakir also said he hopes the coroner looks at making it easier to get help from police. He said that in 2020 he asked Montreal police to intervene after his brother’s schizophrenia symptoms resurfaced and he feared he presented a danger. But he said police told him they could not arrest Abdulla or seize his vehicle because no crime had been committed.
“When his brother tells you he’s not doing well and you know his mental health background, you need to take a little step to help,” Sakir Shaikh testified.
Later, an ex-girlfriend of Abdulla Shaikh testified that he was psychologically, physically and financially abusive during their three-year relationship, which ended in 2016. Marllely Florez Serna told the inquiry she ended the relationship due to aggressive behaviour he exhibited toward anyone that upset him.
The coroner’s inquest heard Monday that within a one-hour period in Montreal on Aug. 2, 2022, Abdulla Shaikh shot and killed Lemieux and Belhaj, who were both outside. Then he travelled to Ontario to visit the Toronto Zoo and Canada’s Wonderland before returning to Quebec to murder Lévis Crevier, who was skateboarding on the street in Montreal’s northern suburb of Laval.
Earlier, in emotional testimony, the families of the three men murdered described the grief and loss they’ve endured.
David Lemieux, a retired professional boxer, remembered his father, André, a mechanic who was passionate about cars, as a generous man with a big heart.
“I’ve prepared for a lot of fights in my life, but this was one I wasn’t ready for,” Lemieux said, noting his lasting memory will be a photo snapped of his father holding his young infant son in the months before his death.
“What life has taught me is don’t forget to give your loved ones a hug because you don’t know what tomorrow brings,” Lemieux said.
Belhaj’s widow, Karima Hoimdia, described her husband of 10 years as an “angel, everyone loved him.” They had two children, seven and five.
“He left an enormous void in our lives,” Hoimdia said. “It’s like it happened yesterday, not one year ago, I see the sadness in my children.”
Belhaj was on his way to an overtime shift at a hospital when he was gunned down. The family had returned from Saudi Arabia a day earlier and the couple’s car wasn’t working, so he decided to take the bus.
“I have to be strong for my kids — I’m the mother, the father, everything — I try to make them happy, I try to bring them out of it, but they were very attached to their father,” Hoimdia said.
The sister of the youngest victim said she lives with a tremendous amount of grief over the loss of her younger brother.
Roxanne Lévis Crevier said her brother lived just three blocks from her home in Laval, Que., and was a frequent presence at her apartment and a popular uncle to her three children.
“I was very close to him, my kids talk about him often,” she told the inquiry. “The hardest thing is grieving with kids who loved him and are conscious of all this.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2023.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press