On Oct. 26, 2015, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was directed by the Director of Law Enforcement to investigate the circumstances surrounding an in-custody death of a 46-year-old man.
On the evening of Oct. 25, 2015, Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officers responded to a disturbance near a senior’s complex in the area of 4450 McCrae Avenue. At that location, a 46-year-old man, displaying bizarre behaviour, attempted to carjack one woman’s vehicle and caused extensive damage to a second vehicle. The man was physically held by civilians until police arrived.
Given his erratic behavior, the man was taken to hospital where he was assessed. He provided a false name to the police officers and medical staff. Although agitated, medical professionals determined that he required no immediate medical attention, at which point he was released back into police custody.
Upon arriving at EPS Detention Management Unit (DMU), the man was identified through his fingerprints, and officers learned he had been previously diagnosed as having a mental health condition. Throughout his brief detention in EPS custody, the man was relatively passive and compliant but his conduct inexplicably shifted at various times between reasonable and rational to bizarre and irrational.
On Oct. 26, 2015, a bail hearing was held and the man was remanded into custody by a justice of the peace. At approximately 11:56 a.m., officers led the man to the EPS prisoner van for transport to the Edmonton Remand Centre. Prior to boarding the van, the man became uncooperative resisting the officers’ efforts to place him into the rear prisoner compartment of the vehicle. The officers urged him to stay calm and cooperate. Eventually, he was placed on his back in the prisoner compartment, with his legs elevated and feet resting against the door. At no time did the man show any aggression toward the police, nor did the officers show any aggression towards the man. Once the compartment door was closed, the man’s behaviour changed. He began kicking his feet against the door and the walls of the prisoner compartment. The transport officers maintained observation of the man, and the other prisoners, on a monitor located on the dash. The prisoner van departed the EPS DMU and traveled north on 97 Street. Upon reaching 111 Avenue, the officers saw the man had stopped moving. They made the decision to check on his condition. At 119 Avenue and 97 Street, with the assistance of two other police officers in the area, they opened the compartment and found the man to be unresponsive and not breathing. They immediately performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived. EMS subsequently treated and transported the man to hospital. Despite the best efforts of all involved, the man did not survive.
An autopsy was conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. It was determined the man died as a result of cardiac arrest. Toxicology results were negative for alcohol or drugs, including prescription medication.
ASIRT conducted a thorough and independent investigation into this allegation. ASIRT executive director, Ms. Susan D. Hughson, Q.C., received the completed investigation and after a careful review of the evidence has confirmed the conduct of the officers involved did not, in any way, cause the death of the man. Ms. Hughson, Q.C. determined that the officers were lawfully placed and in the lawful execution of their duties. No criminal charges will stem from this incident.
This finding in no way diminishes the sad fact that a family has lost their loved one. On behalf of ASIRT, the Executive Director extends condolences to the family and friends of the deceased in relation to this tragic event.
ASIRT’s mandate is to effectively, independently, and objectively investigate incidents involving Alberta’s police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.