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Calgary father loses son to overdose, says police declined to take evidence

Calgary father upset with police handling of son’s overdose death
WATCH: A Calgary father grieving the death of his son was shocked when police declined to take evidence he believed could lead to an arrest. Blake Lough reports.

A Calgary man whose son died in a suspected fentanyl overdose says his nightmare was made even worse when police declined to take information he believed would lead to the person who dealt the drugs.

Robert Baird was at his home the evening of Oct. 3 when he noticed first responders rushing to the house immediately behind his property.

It was where his son lived with his fiancé and 13-year-old grandson.

“I always felt this could happen. But I wasn’t prepared for it,” Baird said.

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“I ran to my son’s house. My son was on the floor… I ran in and they were trying to revive him.”

Baird’s son, Robbie, struggled with drug addiction. Baird suspects he was using fentanyl.

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READ MORE: Online fundraiser started for families of 3 Strathmore teens who overdosed on opioids

Robbie was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“I’ve been trying to protect my son. Get him into hospital, get him out. This time he had his own place, he had his car, his job, his kid. He had everything going in his life and he seemed very happy,” he said.

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Baird said police arrived about 30 minutes after EMS to hold the scene.

According to Baird, the responding officers showed little compassion, and even made light of the situation.

“He asked me, ‘where do you think your son got those drugs?’ I told him he probably got them around the Marlborough Mall. The officer just looked at me and said ‘they don’t have a dispensary there.’”

READ MORE: Calgary mother issues warning to parents following daughter’s fatal fentanyl overdose

Baird then tried to offer his son’s cell phone to police, which contained the phone number of the drug dealer who was in contact with Robbie. He said the officer in charge wasn’t interested.

“This man is texting my son’s phone, saying he’s got better drugs. We could have got this man off the street that night. Or had him traced or at least something. I had the information of the guy that was selling my son these drugs, and the police didn’t want it,” Baird said.

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One week later, Baird again tried to contact police after the alleged drug dealer continued to text and call his son’s phone.

He said it wasn’t until he threatened to call the dealer’s phone number himself that an officer was dispatched to his house and Baird was able to pass along the evidence.

Calgary Police Service District Five inspector Nadine Wagner said the response to Robbie’s overdose was “very dynamic” and that the priority was on saving his life.

But Wagner added that information like the dealer’s cell phone number should have been collected.

“Calgary Police Service is open to any and all information that the public has, including of course from a father, in these situations,” she said.

READ MORE: Alberta’s supervised consumption, overdose prevention sites have 100% overdose reversal rate: report

However, she explained it’s not as simple as texting the number and setting up a sting.

“Drug investigations are very complex. Of course, phone numbers are very helpful, but we also know these drug phones are used with fictitious names and they’re what we’d define as burner phones and move around a lot.

“We need to satisfy beyond a reasonable doubt around laying charges or have reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence took place. But that takes time. In regards to this [case], I know there’s follow up that is taking place.”

Wagner also said it would be out of character for officers to have a lack of compassion when dealing with a family in crisis, adding that the service expects professionalism when approaching crisis scenes.

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“All this information that is fed to us from the public to us, we not only are using on an individual cases such as this tragic incident, but for the bigger picture,” Wagner said.

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“We work collaboratively with the Drug Unit and Guns and Gangs where we know how [criminals] profit is through drug trafficking. Anything we can do to hold those people accountable, that’s what we’re doing.”

READ MORE: Calgary families share stories of struggling to get help for addictions

But Baird said based on how police approached his son’s overdose, he wonders how seriously the opioid crisis is really being taken.

“If a store’s broken into, they’re looking for all the evidence they can get. But when [someone is] dead of an overdose, they just want to get the body out of the house and go to the next call.”

According to the provincial government’s Opioid Response Surveillance Report, 305 people have died from apparent accidental opioid poisoning from January 2019 to June 2019.