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Guards not prepared for helicopter escapes

June 11, 2014, Montreal - The head of Quebec's jail guards union says there was little officers could have done to stop three inmates who escaped from the Orsainville Detention Centre in suburban Quebec City in a helicopter over the weekend.


June 11, 2014
By CBC News

Mathieu Lavoie said the province's jail guards aren't equipped for such situations. 

"What can we do against a helicopter? Yes, we have armed guards
around the prison, but the rules of engagement prevent them from firing
on vehicles, and even less so at helicopters," he said.

Michel Martin, a retired provincial police officer, told CBC News that
shooting at a helicopter would not be advisable even if it was
permitted.

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"You don't know if the pilot is a hostage. It's better to let it go
and to catch them afterwards than to open fire on a flying aircraft
that's maybe going to fall on your head," he said. 

Both Lavoie and Martin said the addition of steel cables across open
spaces in jails where a helicopter could land is needed in Quebec. A
similar escape happened at a correctional facility in St-Jérôme in
2013. 

On the federal side, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said her
department will look at any requests made to Transport Canada to make
prisons more secure against aerial attacks or approaches. However, she
said, because the jail is a provincial one, there wouldn't be much done
at the federal level until the province moves first.

Martin also said the fact jails keep inmates on scheduled routines makes planning such escapes easier. 

"If always you keep the same pattern, people looking to escape know the right time to try," he said. 

A spokesperson for Quebec's public security minister said the
department is looking into what changes can be made to prevent similar
escapes from happening again.

Lavoie was also critical of the fact that some of the strict security
conditions imposed on the three escaped men — Yves Denis, Denis
Lefebvre and Serge Pomerleau​ — had recently been reduced.

Public Security Minister Lise Thériault told reporters Monday she wondered why the inmates' security conditions were relaxed.

Beauchesne also said Monday that
the Quebec Superior Court was going ahead with the drug-trafficking case
against his fugitive client.

Denis, Lefebvre and Pomerleau are facing multiple court proceedings on various charges, including drug trafficking, premeditated murder and gangsterism.

Beauchesne couldn't say what new charges his client could face as a result of his escape.

A fourth man who is facing the same charges as the three escaped
inmates will go to trial without them. Radio-Canada is reporting that
Thierry Béland was part of the escape plan but did not make the
helicopter.

The murder charges the men are facing, which are scheduled to be
prosecuted in January 2015, are connected to the deaths of two men,
Johnny Coutu and Benoît Denis.

Coutu was killed in Laval in July 2009 and Denis was killed in Joliette in May 2010.

If convicted on the murder charges, the three men could face life in prison.

Denis, Lefebvre and Pomerleau were arrested in 2010 after a drug
operation bust in Abitibi known as Project Crayfish that led to dozens
of arrests. They were reported to have had ties to the Hells Angels.

Quebec’s provincial police say the men are dangerous and have added
their names to the province’s 10 most wanted criminals list. They have
also notified police departments across Canada and in the United States
about the escape.


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