New court documents reveal guards at a Kawartha Lakes prison did not follow proper use-of-force protocols in restraining Soleiman Faqiri.
The 30-year-old man with schizophrenia was handcuffed face-down, pepper-sprayed, and had his head put inside a spit hood. He eventually died of asphyxia when the body is deprived of oxygen.
“We feel a certain form of vindication and confirmation that what these guards did was wrong,” said Soleiman Faqiri’s brother, Yusuf Faqiri.
“We’ve been saying that for the last four years.”
Faqiri died in December 2016 while he was in solitary confinement at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., after allegedly stabbing a neighbour during a schizophrenic episode.
According to a 2017 coroner’s report, he was awaiting a mental health assessment when he got into an altercation with multiple guards and sustained more than 50 injuries.
New court documents, which are part of a $14.3-million lawsuit by the Faqiri family against the Ontario government, include a transcription in which the family’s lawyers question jail official, Dawn Roselle, who was present during the time of Soleiman’s death.
Roselle agreed that handcuffing a person while they’re on their stomach, pepper-spraying them, and then putting a spit hood over their head would result in a “triple-threat risk of asphyxia.”
“I would never combine that,” said Roselle during a deposition under oath.
“We did not get spit hood training. We received spit hood orientation.”
The court documents also highlight the provincial manual for use of spit-hoods, which stated, “Staff must ensure that an inmate is not placed on his/her stomach, or in any position that could result in positional asphyxia while wearing the spit hood.”
“I’m not going to pretend to know every measure of this,” Roselle said when asked about the spit hood policies and procedures manual.
The manual for jail staff also said, “Staff must ensure that the inmate has been properly decontaminated when OC spray/irritants have been used.”
“The last few days I’ve been crying, I’ve been in tears,” said Yusuf about the difficulty of hearing some of the details outlined in the court documents.
“My brother is buried, but we don’t have his closure.
“A part of me and a part of my family died that day on Dec. 15, but every time there’s new information we die again and Soleiman dies in front of us again.”
Earlier this year, the OPP closed a criminal investigation into Faqiri’s death without laying any changes against the jail guards because the family said they were told police couldn’t determine which individual guard committed which acts led to Soleiman’s death.
The investigation concluded that “there is no reasonable prospect of conviction on any criminal offences.”
Criminal lawyer Michael Spratt said this civil lawsuit could be the starting point of learning more about how people with mental health issues are treated in Ontario’s prisons.
“It could be a starting point in terms of accountability and spotlight shone in the dark space of our institutions, but it certainly is not going to be the last of the new information we get about the case,” said Spratt.
The Ottawa-based lawyer also added that information that arises from the civil lawsuit by the family could result in the reopening of a criminal case.
“If charges were not laid at one point, it doesn’t mean that when we get new information charges can’t be then laid sometime in the future,” he said.
“I don’t think that it’s sufficient to just look at these individual guards, we need to look at their superiors who were in charge … and the minister responsible for these institutions.”
Meanwhile, Faqiri said the family will not rest until they see some accountability for the death of someone who was a brother and a son.
“My brother was killed under your care, give my family our closure,” said Faqiri, speaking directly to the Ontario government.
“Don’t make my mother suffer the way she suffered the last four years, the way my brother suffered at the hands of your own employees.”
The Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General, which oversees provincial law enforcement, declined to comment on the new court documents as the matter remains before the court. Roselle’s lawyer also declined comment until the case is closed.
– With files from Angelyn Francis with the Local Journalism Initiative and The Canadian Press