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Montreal homicides: Last-minute decision put father of two in killer’s path

Mohamed Salah Belhaj’s brother struggles to grasp how an individual decided to be a “vital threat” to public security was a free man.

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Earlier than he headed off to work late Tuesday evening, Mohamed Salah Belhaj kissed his two younger kids goodnight and determined he didn’t really feel like taking his automotive to work.

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The 48-year-old father opted as an alternative to take the bus, a call that will put him within the path of a whole stranger who, police suspect, wished to kill for no obvious purpose.

That fateful determination made Belhaj one in every of three males who have been gunned down in Montreal and Laval this week. The suspect in all three homicides, Abdulla Shaikh, 26, was shot and killed Thursday morning at a motel within the St-Laurent borough as a Montreal police SWAT crew tried to arrest him.

Shaikh died holding any potential explanations behind why he killed Belhaj and two different victims — André Lemieux, 64, and Alexis Lévis-Crevier, 22 — to himself. The Sûreté du Québec has mentioned they imagine Shaikh selected his victims at random.

Lévis-Crevier, who had simply begun working in building, was fatally shot in Laval Wednesday evening.

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Lemieux, the daddy {of professional} boxer David Lemieux, was killed close to his condominium on Jules-Poitras Blvd. in St-Laurent an hour earlier than Belhaj was shot.

A man suspected of killing three people was shot by police in Montreal Aug. 4, 2022.
A person suspected of killing three folks was shot by police in Montreal Aug. 4, 2022. Picture by Allen McInnis /Montreal Gazette

“He was within the unsuitable place on the unsuitable second,” Mohsen Belhaj, the brother of Mohamed Salah, informed the Montreal Gazette on Friday as he continued to wrestle with the selection of whether or not his sibling needs to be interred in Montreal, to be near his widow and their kids, or Tunisia, their birthplace and the place their mom lives. He mentioned his brother’s kids, ages six and 4, have solely been informed to this point that their father travelled to Tunisia and shall be coming again.

His brother was killed whereas each males have been mourning the lack of their father, who died on July 29.

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Belhaj mentioned he and his sister-in-law have since been in a position to piece collectively a few of his brother’s remaining moments earlier than he was shot late Tuesday evening.

“Round 1 / 4 to 11 (p.m.), he grabbed his lunchbox and kissed his youngsters. He informed them it was getting too late for them to be up. They went to sleep and he went to his work,” Belhaj mentioned. “He was keen to take his automotive however he determined: ‘You recognize what? I don’t really feel like taking the automotive. I’m simply going to take the bus. It is going to be a lot simpler for me. I don’t really feel like driving’.”

Minutes after he left his house within the Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough, Belhaj was shot at an intersection close to St-Benoit Park round 10:50 p.m. He by no means made it to his job on the Albert Prevost Hospital, an establishment that treats sufferers with mental-health issues.

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Belhaj mentioned his brother was a part of the final employees on the hospital and was appreciated by his co-workers.

“The man was a easy man. He labored for his youngsters. He had no issues in any respect. Everyone is in shock. All of the medical employees who labored with him, they got here to see me (on Thursday) and so they all mentioned Salah was one of many nicest guys of the employees. They requested: ‘How may this occur to him?’ ” Belhaj mentioned.

Shaikh had been identified with schizophrenia and was charged with mischief following a sequence of unusual incidents at each Trudeau and Mirabel airports over the course of a number of days throughout July 2018.

He was discovered to be not criminally chargeable for his actions and was ordered to stay along with his dad and mom whereas receiving therapy. However months later, his household turned so involved with Shaikh’s behaviour they requested that he be dedicated to an establishment for folks with mental-health issues.

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He was launched early in January 2021 and the Fee d’examen des troubles mentaux, an administrative tribunal, reviewed their determination on March 29 of this yr. A psychiatrist informed the tribunal that Shaikh “nonetheless represents a major threat to public security due to his psychological state.” However the psychiatrist additionally beneficial Shaikh may reside exterior the hospital so long as he continued to comply with the situations imposed on him in January 2021.

On Friday, Belhaj mentioned he’s struggling to grasp how a person who represented a “vital threat to public security” may be a free man.

“That is the issue with this metropolis. Individuals who do no matter to harmless folks, regardless of the story is, they get put again on the streets. He had psychological issues and the file was closed,” Belhaj mentioned. “The federal government, or their establishments, they knew he was a threat. They knew that the man had a significant issue. Why didn’t we place him beneath some type of management in order that we might know what he’s doing?

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“I imply, he was mentally sick and he was on the market amongst us. I’m not simply talking on behalf of my brother. Logically, it may have occurred to any of us. It may occur to you, going to work and also you get chosen like this. I perceive his proper to stay (as a free particular person) but when he represented a threat for our security, we are able to do issues a lot better than we’re doing now as a society. As a father of three youngsters, do you assume I really feel secure sending one in every of them to get milk?”

Belhaj additionally mentioned he feels sympathy for Shaikh’s household.

“Behind him there’s a father and a mom,” he mentioned. “They misplaced a son as nicely.”

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