Canadian Taxi Driver Homicides: Richard Côté Previous page    Next page • Driver Profiles

Richard Côté

Québec, Québec / March 25, 1994

Richard Côté, 39, was last seen about 11:30 p.m. on March 24, 1994. At about 1:55 a.m. the next morning he was found in his cab in surburban Limoilou. The car was stuck in a snowbank at the corner of Bruneau and Nicolet with its engine running.

Mr. Côté was barely alive when found and died soon afterward from two 9mm gunshot wounds to the chest. The killer had apparently been sitting beside him in the front seat. The driver still had $20 on him which cast doubt on robbery as a motive.

Mr. Côté, who had been a cab driver for 18 years, left a widow and two small children. About 300 taxi drivers attended his funeral and drivers for his company, Taxis-Québec, tied small black ribbons to their radio aerials as a sign of respect.

Mr. Côté normally worked from a stand in Place d'Youville, just outside the St. Jean gate that leads into the historic Old City. A driver told a reporter that using this stand was risky because "there are a lot of punks and loiterers at night.... They come out from the bars in threes and fours and they are really dangerous."

Another driver who also frequented the stand and spent time with Mr. Côté speculated that he might have been shot while resisting a robbery. He indicated that Mr. Côté was not the sort of person to back down from a fight.

As the police investigation proceeded a very different picture of the murder began to emerge. A small bag of cocaine was found on the cab's dashboard and it turned out that Mr. Côté himself was known to the police. It began to look like the shooting was either the result of a drug dispute or else an act of revenge.

The investigation soon led to a 31-year-old thief who held police at bay for 22 hours by threatening to shoot himself. When he finally surrendered it police found that the ammunition clip in his 9mm automatic was missing and that the pistol only held the single bullet in its chamber. The clip was discovered in Mr. Côté's cab. The ammunition matched the bullets taken from Mr. Côté's body.

The killer had committed three robberies in the days leading up to Mr. Côté's murder, although he himself claimed that he had been selling drugs in Toronto. On the night in question he claimed to have gone to various bars trying to find cocaine without success. He then went out to the cab stand in Place d'Youville and climbed into the cab whose driver looked "the most rock-and-roll".

According to the killer, Mr. Côté agreed to sell him seven grams (1 ounce) of cocaine after seeing the $520 he had in his wallet. At the corner of 18th street and Ernest-Laplointe Mr. Côté left the cab, returning five minutes later with a small bag of cocaine. [Next column]

Saint Jean Gate (Porte Saint-Jean) looking toward Place d'Youville, Québec QC (Source:Google Street View, 1000 Rue Saint-Jean, July 2019)

When he asked $475 for the bag, the killer balked at the price (the going rate, he said, was $300 to $350) and an argument ensued. The killer claimed that Mr. Côté threatened to send thugs after him and then seized him by the collar as he tried to get out of the car.

The killer pulled his 9mm pistol from his belt in a state of panic, allegedly to frighten Mr. Côté and free himself. The gun went off, slightly injuring the driver, who collapsed against the driver's side door. The car began to move and the killer grabbed the steering wheel just as it ran into a snowbank about 1,700 feet down the street.

However, blood traces on the steering wheel showed that Mr. Côté had tried to drive the car after being shot, contrary to the killer's assertion. He had also been shot twice, not once as the killer had maintained.

The judge noted that to justify a manslaughter defence Mr. Côté would have to have done something or said something so provocative as to make an ordinary person lose control of himself and act on the spur of the moment. He saw no evidence of any such provocation. After the first shot the killer was clearly in control of the situation. Moreover, the killer obviously anticipated trouble when he armed himself with a loaded gun (in his earlier robberies he had not bothered to load the weapon).

The killer was found guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to fourteen years.