Black Press file photo

RCMP not at fault for in-custody death in South Okanagan

An investigation lead by IIO determined the arresting officer, detachment not at fault

A man’s death while in Penticton RCMP custody was determined to be caused by an existing health condition.

An investigation performed by the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) determined the 55-year-old man’s death that happened on Aug. 16, 2018, to be “inevitable,” stating that after an autopsy was performed the pathologist was of the opinion that the cause of death was heart disease.

“This is an unfortunate situation where (the man’s) health caused his death during the short period of time he was in custody awaiting his attendance in court. The autopsy confirmed there was no trauma suffered by (the man), other than would be expected from lifesaving measures, and that his death was caused by heart disease,” reads the IIO’s report. “It would appear his death was inevitable, and although it may be that the stress of his arrest aggravated the situation somewhat, (the officer) was acting entirely lawfully and appropriately throughout.”

The man was pulled over during a routine traffic stop by Keremeos RCMP at approximately 7:05 a.m. on Aug. 16 when it was determined he had an outstanding arrest warrant. After allowing the man to move his vehicle to a safe location and permitting him to bring his medication, the arresting officer transported the man to the Penticton detachment between 7:35 and 7:39 a.m.

The IIO report states that while in custody, the man’s movements were continuously recorded by CCTV “from the time he and (the officer) arrived in the secure bay at 7:39 a.m. until (he) was taken out of his cell by paramedics at 9:58 p.m.”

“The only physical contact between (the man) and (the officer) that is seen on CCTV was when handcuffs were removed and during the finger printing process,” reads the report. “(The man) was then given access to his medications and secured in a cell. Cell block records also confirm that (the man) was provided with his medication.”

Once in his cell, the report states that the man laid down on his left side and then sat up briefly, returning to a laid down position at approximately 9:10 a.m. According to cell block records, he was “checked and observed at appropriate intervals during this time” and sherriffs entered his cell at 9:19 a.m.

“CCTV shows (the sherriff) entering (the man’s) cell and when (he) did not immediately rouse (the sherriff) left and returned with another sherriff. The sherriffs quicky commenced and continued CPR until 9:29 a.m. when paramedics arriced and took over,” states the investigation report.

The man was then transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m. During the autopsy, which was performed with IIO investigators present, the pathologist found that the man’s heart was enlarged and his arteries were significantly obstructed.

“The evidence collected does not provide grounds to consider any charges against any officer. (The arresting officer) acted as requierd by his duties in accordance with the law,” states the report.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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