‘Untimely and tragic’: Calgary police cleared of wrongdoing in in-custody death

Alberta’s police watchdog has cleared the Calgary Police Service (CPS) of any wrongdoing in their dealings with a man who died in custody in a cell at the Spyhill Services Centre.

The death happened almost two years ago, after the suspect was taken into custody from the Marlborough CTrain Station on Oct. 23, 2020.

Police had been called to the area over concerns of a man with a weapon.

At the time, police said the man was arrested without incident, charged, checked by a medic and placed in a cell.

During a routine check of the cells at 8 p.m., police observed the man eating his meal.

During the next check he was found unresponsive.

Police said though life-saving efforts were taken, the man was pronounced dead at around 8:40 p.m.

ASIRT INVESTIGATION SHEDS LIGHT ON DEATH

On Monday, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) released the results of an investigation into the death.

According to ASIRT, when arrested, the man was in possession of an airsoft pistol, slingshot and alcohol.

Computer checks revealed he was on probation, with one of the conditions of his release that he was prohibited from consuming or possessing alcohol.

The arrest was captured on body-worn cameras and ASIRT confirmed the man was cooperative when taken into custody and that no force was used.

ASIRT says video recordings of the man while he was in custody show him eating a sandwich he had been provided but also ingesting something else he appeared to be keeping palm of his hand.

“The (man) is then observed apparently discarding something into the toilet and flushing it,” reads the ASIRT report.

An autopsy report later concluded the man’s death was caused by ethanol, fentanyl and methamphetamine toxicity. 

ASIRT concluded that the man “never presented as being in any form of medical distress” during his dealings with officers and CPS staff.

“He had been medically cleared for entry into (the arrest processing section) at the time he was brought there,” ASIRT said.

ASIRT concluded that while the man’s death was “untimely and tragic,” there were “no reasonable grounds nor any reasonable suspicion to believe that officers committed an offence.”

MEDIC RAISES CONCERNS 

ASIRT noted that during its investigation, a medic within the arrest processing section had raised concerns with the way in which he felt the responding EMS had handled things. 

“He was of the opinion that they did not provide the level of treatment one would expect given how (the man) was presenting.”

ASIRT contacted the Alberta Health Service’s (AHS) investigations unit and provided them with details of the concerns raised.

“It was left with AHS to determine whether to commence an investigation into the reported actions of the attending EMS members,” said ASIRT.

In a statement provided to CTV News, AHS said they received information earlier this year regarding the “alleged conduct of two AHS paramedics” and “immediately conducted a full review and investigation.”

“There was found to be no evidence of any professional misconduct nor improper patient treatment on the part of the AHS paramedics.

“The investigation is closed.”

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