SSRI Stories note: Caution is required in giving antidepressants to people with traumatic brain injury. Antidepressants can cause or exacerbate seizure activity in the brain.
By RICHARD LIEBRECHT, QMI Agency EDMONTON — A woman shot by police for pointing what appeared to be a gun at them may have been suicidal, says her boyfriend.
George Coward, 58, also claims the weapon wasn’t real.
“This wasn’t a violent woman. This wasn’t a crazy person. She was just angry,” said a shaken Coward, who was in a common-law relationship with Bernadette Auger, 48, for two years.
“Whatever made her go outside with this plastic gun, I’m not sure … I think she just decided that she wanted to go. If she pointed the gun at the officer, she knew it wasn’t a real gun, so she wanted to be shot.
“I want the police to know they shouldn’t be blamed.”
Auger was shot by an officer in a back lane beside her apartment at 8411 119 Ave. just after 2:30 p.m. Saturday. She later died.
Coward said the trouble began the previous night, when Auger’s sons were partying in her suite while the pair was trying to sleep.
“She got up once, was mad at a couple of her boys,” he said.
Saturday morning, she made a house call to a friend to cut the friend’s hair.
“When she came back, she was agitated,” said Coward, though he didn’t know what had set her off.
She then saw two of her sons fighting over a video game. She overreacted, said Coward, and called police.
“I said that didn’t make sense, took the phone from her and told them not to send anyone and hung up.”
However, he said the 911 operator called back and said police would still have to check in, he said.
When officers arrived, they found the woman ranging around the hallways with what appeared to be a gun, said police Saturday. Officials haven’t said whether the weapon was real. She led police to the back lane shortly after, where she was shot.
Coward remembered a toy cap gun that was lying around the house, painted black.
“It would have looked like a real gun,” he said. “Why didn’t I throw out that plastic gun when I saw it?
“I hate guns.”
Frustrated by the 911 call, Coward said he and one of Auger’s sons took off to a friend’s place nearby. He left Auger to deal with the situation.
“The rest of my life it will be if, if, if. What if I had stayed and calmed her down?” he asked.
Auger suffered short-term memory loss and disorientation after sustaining severe head trauma in a car crash eight years ago. She also had a history of talking about suicide and was on antidepressants, said Coward.
Headaches and other pains were also an ongoing issue, especially lately.
“The last few days she’s been very sick. She said her bones were sore, her body was tired. She just kept sleeping,” he said.
Auger was known to police prior to the incident, said Sgt. Tony Simioni, president of the Edmonton Police Association.
Still, Coward said she was a kind-hearted grandmother of three.
“She was just this incredibly beautiful woman that was very into arts and crafts,” he said. “This woman had changed my life, made me a better person. We looked after each other, you know? It was a relationship where you didn’t have to say anything … they do it before you say it.”
The couple planned to marry this summer, said Coward.
An investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team continues.