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Lionel Desmond's gun licence issuer didn't know of his mental-health woes

Shanna and Lionel Desmond hold their daughter Aaliyah in this photo from Shanna Desmond’s Facebook page.
Shanna and Lionel Desmond hold their daughter Aaliyah in this photo from Shanna Desmond’s Facebook page. - Facebook

Lionel Desmond wouldn’t have had a valid licence to buy the rifle he used to kill his family if the New Brunswick Firearms Office had been aware of the extent of his interactions with mental health care providers and the RCMP.

That's what the Desmond fatality inquiry heard from the operations manager for the provincial firearms office Thursday after Judge Warren Zimmer read her a letter signed by doctors at a Fredericton occupational stress injury clinic recommending an inpatient facility in Quebec take Desmond as a client due to his severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, amongst other issues.

“If our office would have been privy to this letter it would have changed the outcome of his licence review,” Lysa Rossignol testified.

She reinstated Desmond’s possession and acquisition licence in 2016.

At the time, Rossignol also didn’t know that the day after Oromocto RCMP seized a rifle and arrested Desmond under the Mental Health Act for threatening to commit suicide, he drove five hours to his wife’s home in Upper Big Tracadie and tried to get a rifle returned to him there.

He went so far as to call the Guysborough RCMP on his wife, Shanna, for hiding his hunting rifle with a family member — an action she’d taken on the recommendation of the Oromocto RCMP.

Shanna’s father, Richard Borden, called the police on Desmond at about the same time because he was standing in a neighbour’s yard in Upper Big Tracadie yelling at Shanna’s house.

“(Shanna) didn’t want  (Lionel) there, Mr. Borden didn’t want him there,” testified Const. Leonard MacDonald of the Guysborough RCMP, who responded to the Nov. 28, 2015 call.

“I was very clear to (Shanna) that I was going to take possession of (the rifle) and that I wasn’t going to give it back to him. I told him when I left that she wasn’t going to have it either. Everybody was happy with that.”

Before leaving MacDonald took time to talk to Shanna in her Upper Big Tracadie home about her relationship with Lionel.

“She wasn’t in any fear; she didn’t accept it,” MacDonald said.

“Obviously she was not walking over there and talking to (Lionel) so there must have been some kind of fear. She didn’t feel she needed the protection of the RCMP or the help of the Naomi Society or anyone else.”

The society, based in Antigonish, helps women and their children who are victims of family violence.

Shanna did ask about, and MacDonald explained to her, the process for getting a peace bond.

Though Shanna, a newly graduated nurse who had recently begun work at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, didn’t feel the need to contact the Naomi Society, MacDonald handed her one of their cards anyway.

Shanna would call the number on it on Jan. 3, 2017, a few hours before she, her daughter Aaliyah and her mother-in-law Brenda were gunned down by Desmond with a rifle he’d bought legally earlier that day.

Desmond then killed himself with the same gun.


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