Police watchdog clears city officers after 2015 in-custody death
Executive director Susan D. Hughson of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT). Ed Kaiser / Postmedia
Several city police officers have been cleared after a 25-year-old man on drugs died in custody in 2015, says Alberta s police watchdog. A report by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) released Wednesday states that the man was acting agitated, uncontrolled and violent while police tried to restrain him at the downtown City Centre Mall around 9:30 p.m. on April 29, 2015. A medical examiner attributed his cause of death to excited delirium brought on by methamphetamine.
There is no evidence to suggest any of the officers involved wished harm upon the man and, equally important, there is no evidence that the conduct of the officers reflected a wanton or reckless disregard for the health and safety of the man, said the ASIRT report. Officers were called to the mall after security guards arrested the man for trespassing. He was behaving bizarrely and yelling over the guards, prompting them to call police, states the report.
Two responding city police officers took custody of the man, who resisted instructions while being put into a marked police vehicle, ASIRT found.
He was observed twisting and attempting to pull away and the man also let his body weight fall to the floor, said ASIRT. He was observed to be breathing heavily, mumbling and yelling, mostly incoherently. The officers transporting the man to downtown police headquarters were concerned he needed medical attention. When they arrived at headquarters, two other police officers helped them place the man in handcuffs and leg restraints.
During the physical struggle, the man continually resisted, kicked, yelled and screamed incoherently, said the ASIRT report, adding that paramedics were called to the station. The man was taken to a holding cell and placed in the recovery position before officers noted the man now appeared to be unconscious and in medical distress. Officers immediately removed the restraints and upon determining that he was unresponsive, began to perform emergency lifesaving measures, said ASIRT.
When paramedics arrived, they continued to treat the man before taking him to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy concluded the man had advanced coronary artery disease consistent with chronic use of drugs such as methamphetamine or cocaine. A toxicology report found methamphetamine in his blood and a bag containing the drug inside his stomach. ASIRT determined the use of restraints played no role in the death of the man.
Susan Hughson, ASIRT executive director, in the report extended condolences to the man s family and friends.
This finding in no way diminishes the sad fact that a family has lost its loved one, the statement said.
ASIRT investigates cases involving Alberta police that have resulted in serious injury or death, as well as allegations of police misconduct.