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Police watchdog investigating man’s death in central Alberta hospital

FILE: ASIRT is investigating an Oct. 2 arrest by St. Albert RCMP. ASIRT

Alberta’s police watchdog is investigating after a 72-year-old man died following a “confrontation” at a hospital in Sundre, Alta., on Friday, according to the RCMP.

In a news release issued Friday night, the RCMP said officers from its Sundre detachment received a 911 call from an Alberta Health Services peace officer at 10:54 a.m. They said the peace officer said they needed help with a person they alleged was being “physically violent.”

“Upon arrival, a physical confrontation occurred,” the RCMP said. “Following the confrontation, the male subject went into medical distress.

“At approximately 12:20 p.m., the 72-year-old male subject, a resident of Sundre, died in hospital.”

A spokesperson for the RCMP declined to say who was involved in the confrontation but confirmed the 911 call that was made was regarding the man who died. When asked, the spokesperson declined to say if the man was a patient or if he worked at the hospital.

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In a news release issued Monday, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team said the man who died had been admitted to the hospital earlier that day under the Mental Health Act. ASIRT said he was admitted after going to hospital on his own accord at 8:30 a.m., at which point he was assessed by medical staff.

ASIRT said the confrontation between the man and police unfolded when the man went outside at about 10:30 a.m., “against the directions of medical staff.”

“An Alberta Health Services peace officer went with him and, as he was exiting the hospital, an altercation occurred between them,” ASIRT said. “The peace officer called police and, at approximately 11 a.m., an officer from the Sundre RCMP detachment arrived. The police officer and the peace officer spoke to the man outside of the hospital for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, and then a physical altercation occurred.

“The man went into medical distress and medical staff began to treat him. Their efforts were unsuccessful, however, and the man was declared deceased at approximately noon.”

“The Alberta RCMP believes in processes that seek the facts and it’s important that processes taken to assess the actions of all those involved, including the police, are fair, transparent and defendable,” the RCMP said in a news release. “This is why, as soon as we became aware of this incident, we immediately notified the Director of Law Enforcement and initiated our internal review process.

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“(ASIRT) has been directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the actions of the police and peace officer during this investigation.”

When asked for details or comment on the incident, a spokesperson for AHS said the health authority “will not be providing further information at this time” because the RCMP is investigating.

“Independent of ASIRT’s investigation, the Alberta RCMP’s internal review process has been implemented to gather a full account of what took place during this incident,” the RCMP said in a news release. “RCMP training, policy, police response and the duty status of the members involved will be subject to review.

“The Alberta RCMP is, of course, fully co-operating with ASIRT and will not be commenting further on this incident.”

ASIRT said Monday that it is hoping to find witnesses who may have seen parts f the confrontation between police and the man who died.

Anyone who witnessed the events or captured images of what happened is asked to call ASIRT investigators at 403-592-4306.

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