Police had just subdued a man said to be going berserk in a downtown parking lot when one of the officers noticed blood on the ground and asked his partner if he'd been hurt, said Sgt. Claude Doiron, a Quebec provincial police spokesman for eastern Quebec.
"The officer said no but then his partner said, 'Your clothes are covered in blood.'
"The officer looked at his clothes and saw that he had been hurt. He lost consciousness."
The injured officer, whose name has not been released, is out of danger in hospital but has a long recovery ahead, said Doiron.
A 12-year veteran and father of a young son officer, the officer responded late Monday night to reports of a man screaming and swearing in a parking lot in Rimouski, about 500 kilometres east of Montreal.
"The man was yelling at people, he was having a crisis," Doiron said.
Police saw him sitting in a car when they drove into the large parking lot, which is surrounded by commercial buildings and a construction site. They say efforts to reason with him were in vain.
"When the guy saw police, he got out of his car quickly and ran toward them," Doiron said.
In the altercation, one of the two officers fired a blast of pepper-spray before they grappled with the man to get handcuffs on him.
It was only moments after the man had been subdued that the officers noticed the blood. An ambulance rushed the injured officer to hospital where doctors found a severe laceration on his upper body.
"He had lost a lot of blood, lots of blood," Doiron said. A decision was made because of the seriousness of his condition to transfer the officer to another hospital in Quebec City where he underwent emergency surgery.
Doiron said the 33-year-old suspect is known to police. As police conducted their investigation after Monday night's stabbing, residents of the area came forward and said they too had encountered the man earlier and had been threatened with a knife.
"Our investigation found that he had attacked several people during the afternoon with a knife," Doiron said. "Someone was cut on the arm but we didn't know because no one made a complaint to the police. We found out all this after the intervention.
"The intervention was for a person in crisis. (There was) no mention of a weapon, no mention of a knife."
Quebec provincial police always travel in pairs during the night and other cars usually respond when there is a report of a violent suspect.
Doiron, who knows the injured officer, spoke highly of him.
"He's very professional," Doiron said, adding he knew well how to handle a supposedly routine call. "None of those types of calls should be taken lightly. They can be very serious and dangerous for us. We have the proof of that yet again — a routine call where a police officer was nearly killed with a knife."
The arrested man was arraigned on several charges, including armed assault.