Accused Cop Killer Testifies 'He Had to Shoot Montreal Officer' to Save Himself
MONTREAL (CP) -- Shoot or be shot. Kill or be killed. So he testified.
That's what Stephane Boucher says was racing through his mind on Feb. 28, 2002, when he fired at Const. Benoit L'Ecuyer from close range during a foot chase on a busy Montreal highway.
Four, possibly five, bullets from Boucher's .357 Magnum hit L'Ecuyer, killing him almost instantly.
Boucher testified at his first-degree murder trial on Tuesday he had no choice but to shoot at L'Ecuyer after the 29-year-old officer fired at him twice, grazing him on the hand.
"I was scared," Boucher, 26, said as he told jurors his version of events.
"Everything happened in a few seconds. Was I supposed to wait until he fatally shot me before reacting?"
He deflected the suggestion that he could also have dropped the gun and given up rather than shooting the officer.
Boucher told the jury, and a packed courtroom that included L'Ecuyer's family, partner and Boucher's wife, he had been on his way to rob a bank with two friends when things started to unravel.
Boucher, who was driving his wife's Infiniti, said he had been scoping out another vehicle to steal and to use in the robbery when L'Ecuyer and his partner drove by. Earlier testimony revealed the officers had been setting up a radar trap when they decided to conduct a routine inspection of Boucher's vehicle.
Boucher, who has a long record of armed robberies and weapons offences, said he drove off because he had violated the terms of his probation for his most recent conviction.
He also had a loaded gun he planned to use to "intimidate" people during the bank robbery.
With L'Ecuyer close behind, Boucher ended up hitting a median and lost a tire. L'Ecuyer's car pulled up to block him near a concrete sound barrier and Boucher took off on foot.
"My intention was to cross the road as fast as possible, run into a field and get rid of the gun," said Boucher.
But traffic prevented him from making an easy escape and he then heard what sounded like a gunshot coming from behind him.
"When I got to the middle lane, I heard the same sound again but this time I felt a burning in my hand."
Boucher said he kept running, pulled out his gun to protect himself, turned with the gun raised and shot L'Ecuyer, who was holding his gun at his side.
"I didn't want to die. It was a critical moment ... I had to protect myself. He had a bulletproof vest and I had nothing."
Several eyewitnesses have testified for the Crown to recount what they saw happen that late winter day.
One man testified he saw L'Ecuyer shoot Boucher twice, but assumed they were warning shots because they missed Boucher less than 10 metres away. A delivery driver said he saw Boucher shoot L'Ecuyer a total of four times. Former soldier Claude St-Jean testified he saw Boucher, protected by the highway's central concrete median, take the time to aim and shoot L'Ecuyer three times.
Boucher, a clean-cut man with boyish good looks, was dressed in grey dress pants and a black cotton sweater. His ankles chained, he sounded confident and calm throughout most of his testimony, his voice rising only occasionally in response to a vigorous, fast-paced cross-examination by prosecutor Normand Chenier.
"You never thought to throw down the gun and give yourself up?" asked Chenier incredulously.
"If I did that I wouldn't be here today," Boucher shot back.
"Rather than give yourself up you chose to risk your life by crossing the street?" asked Chenier.
"That's right," replied Boucher.
Boucher also told jurors about his actions following the shooting, when he was on the run for several days.
In the hours after the shooting, Boucher said he got rid of his clothes and had a shower to wash off any traces of gunpowder. He dumped his gun in the river, but took another gun from a friend who helped him.
He stayed with a young couple for four days, but changed locations for fear of being recognized.
Boucher, who had dyed his hair blonde as a disguise, said he would have turned himself in but wanted the situation to "cool off" a bit first.
He was eventually arrested as he lay sleeping on a sofa in an apartment near Montreal.
Boucher was the only defence witness in the case.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Oct. 28.
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