Alberta’s police watchdog has cleared members of the Edmonton Police Service of any responsibility in a 2015 in-custody death involving a man with a history of mental health issues.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) began investigating the death of a 46-year-old man on Oct. 26, 2015.
The man was taken into custody that evening after officers responded to a report of a disturbance near a senior’s complex in the area of 4450 McCrae Avenue in the Griesbach neighbourhood.
Witnesses said the man was displaying “bizarre behaviours” and had attempted to carjack one woman’s vehicle and caused “extensive damage” to a second vehicle, according to ASIRT. He was physically held by civilians until police arrived.
Officers took the man to hospital to be assessed as a result of the erratic behaviour. Although he appeared agitated, ASIRT said medical professionals determined he required no immediate medical attention. He was then released back into police custody.
The man was taken to the EPS detention management unit (DMU), where fingerprint identification showed he had a previously diagnosed mental health condition.
Police said the man was “relatively passive and compliant” during his brief detention, but would inexplicably shift between reasonable and rational to bizarre and irrational.
The next morning, a justice of the peace ordered the man to remain in police custody. Shortly before noon, officers were taking the man to the EPS prisoner van for transport to the Edmonton Remand Centre.
At that time, ASIRT said the man became uncooperative and was resisting police efforts to put him in the rear prisoner compartment, despite officers urging him to stay calm and cooperate.
Eventually officers were able to get the man into the back of the van. ASIRT said he was on his back, with his legs elevated and his feet against the door.
According to the evidence presented, there was no aggression between the man and police before the rear doors were closed. Once the doors were closed, police said the man’s behaviour changed.
He reportedly began kicking his feet against the door and the walls of the prisoner compartment. Officers kept an eye on the man’s behaviour via a monitor in the dashboard.
Shortly after leaving EPS DMU, officers realized the man had stopped moving. With the assistance of two other officers in the area, they opened the back doors and found the man was unresponsive and not breathing.
Officers performed CPR until paramedics arrived. The man was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy determined the man died of cardiac arrest. Toxicology results were negative for alcohol and drugs, including prescription drugs.
After reviewing the evidence, ASIRT’s executive director Susan Hughson determined the officers were “lawfully placed and in the lawful execution of their duties.”