January 9, 2019 7:03 pm

Heart disease, not Penticton RCMP, likely cause of man’s death: IIO report

An Independent Investigations Office of B.C. report has found no wrongdoing by Penticton RCMP regarding a man who died in police cells in August.

Shelby Thom / Global Okanagan

A report of the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has cleared the Penticton RCMP of any wrongdoing in the death of a man while in a police cell in August.

The report says heart disease was the likely cause of death, and said several times that closed-circuit television showed no physical force between police and the 55-year-old man, who was arrested for a traffic violation on August 16.

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“The evidence collected does not provide grounds to consider any charges against any officer,” Ronald J. MacDonald, IIO of B.C. chief civilian director, said in the report.

READ MORE: Man, 55, dies in Penticton RCMP cells

The report can be found here.

The incident began when police pulled a vehicle over at approximately 7:04 a.m., with the driver having an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

According to the report, an officer allowed the man to drive his vehicle to a safer location before being arrested. The man was also permitted to bring his medication with him to the Penticton detachment.

WATCH: No charges against police in Salmon Arm arrest (February, 2018)

“Once at the detachment, [the man’s] movements were continuously recorded by CCTV, from the time he and Officer 1 arrived in the secure bay at 7:39 a.m., until [the man] was taken out of his cell by paramedics at 9:58 a.m.,” the report said.

“On his arrival, [the man] can be seen on the CCTV walking unassisted and without difficulty while he was being booked in; during his telephone call to counsel; while he was fingerprinted; and when he was put into a cell.

“The only physical contact between [the man] and Officer 1 that is seen on CCTV was when handcuffs were removed and during the fingerprinting process.”

READ MORE: Man found unresponsive in Saskatoon police cell dies

The report also said the man was given access to his medications and secured in a cell. Closed-circuit television showed that the man in his cell, including sitting up at 9:10 a.m.

At 9:19 a.m., sheriffs arrived at the man’s cell to transport him to court.

“CCTV shows Sheriff 1 enter [the man’s] cell and when [the man] did not immediately rouse, Sheriff 1 left and returned with Sheriff 2. Sheriffs 1 and 2 quickly commenced and continued CPR until 9:29 a.m., when paramedics arrived and took over.

“CCTV shows [the man] being placed on a gurney and taken out of the cell. The man was transported to hospital and was pronounced deceased at 10:16 a.m.

“Except for CPR, no physical force was used at time during [the man’s] presence in the detachment.”

READ MORE: Alberta police watchdog probing death of man found unresponsive in Edmonton holding cell

The report said that an autopsy was performed with IIO investigators present, and that no physical trauma beyond CPR was noted. A pathologist reportedly found that the man’s heart was enlarged and arteries in his heart were significantly obstructed.

“The pathologist was of the opinion that the cause of death was heart disease,” said the report.

The four-page report concluded that the man’s “death was inevitable and, although it may be that the stress of his arrest aggravated the situation somewhat, Officer 1 was acting entirely lawfully and appropriately throughout.”

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