January 22, 2014 7:52 pm
Updated: January 23, 2014 2:13 am

Memorial vigil held 10 years after teen died at Edmonton Law Courts

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EDMONTON – Ten years ago to the day, a 16-year-old boy died after falling down an elevator shaft while in custody at the Edmonton Law Courts. And on Wednesday, family and friends came together outside the courthouse to remember Kyle Young.

“He was my son,” said Lorena Young, Kyle’s mother. “I had to be here.”

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On Jan. 22, 2004 Kyle, who suffered from mental health issues, was being held in a courthouse holding cell. While moving the teen to calm him down, court constables took Kyle to an elevator and restrained him against the door. But the door came off its track and Kyle fell down the shaft five floors. The 16-year-old was in shackles and handcuffs at the time.

For Lorena, Wednesday’s vigil was the first time she’s been back to the law courts since her son’s death.

“You lose your child, you never get over it,” she said. “I don’t know what else to say, it’s devastating.”

“I will always have my memory,” added Kyle’s sister Amanda. “These are things no one can ever take.”

Following the boy’s death, a fatality inquiry determined the elevator was improperly maintained. It also found the constables acted appropriately.

Those at the memorial Wednesday say it was also an opportunity to advocate for the rights of prisoners with mental health issues.

“In my view, this whole incident would not have happened, he would not have died, if he was on proper medication and treatment,” said defence lawyer Tom Engel.

“It’s a sober reminder, I think, of the plight of prisoners in our province. Prisoners are still being mistreated as we speak here. They’re still not getting proper care for their mental health concerns.”

Alberta Justice has implemented changes, including adding cameras in the courthouse elevators used for moving inmates. Alberta Sheriffs also have to go through use of force and mental health training.

Kyle’s eldest sister, Charmagne, believes the system has likely improved over the past decade, but says “we’re not all the way there.”

“We need to bring attention to the fact that people with mental illnesses aren’t being handled well within the system,” she said. “It’s hard to have faith in a system that allows for this type of thing to happen. And when no one is held accountable for anything, how can you believe in the justice system?”

The Young family was pleased by how many people came out to show their support for Kyle Wednesday afternoon.

And while Kyle’s death was 10 years ago, Lorena says at times it feels as though she just saw her son 15 minutes ago.

“The last time I saw him,” she said, holding back tears, “he walked out the door and said ‘bye, mom. See ya later.’ [With a] big smile. That was Kyle.”

With files from Laurel Gregory, Global News.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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