B.C.’s civilian police watchdog has cleared two Coquitlam RCMP officers of wrongdoing in the death of a man during an arrest last year.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) says Mounties were called to a home in the 300 block of Balfour Drive around 3 a.m. on Oct. 19, 2021, to a report of a man in his underwear and a T-shirt banging his head on the door.
A resident of the home recorded a portion of the incident on their cellphone.
An officer arrived to find the man on the street, and video evidence showed him “aggressively” pursuing the officer “arms extended in a zombie-like attitude” as the Mountie backed away down the street, according to the IIO’s report.
According to the report, the officer is not seen using any force, and a male voice can be heard saying “get on the ground.”
Police radio recordings show the officer reported that the man appeared to want to fight, and that he deployed pepper spray at the man before a second officer showed up.
IIO investigate after VPD car hits man mid-block on Hastings Street
That officer tackled the man to the ground, with what a witness described as a “bear hug,” according to the report.
“There is no evidence that any weapons or blows were used by any officer,” it sates.
A third officer arrived on scene, who told the IIO the man didn’t offer any significant resistance. A fourth officer told the IIO that when he arrived the man had been handcuffed and placed on the ground in the recovery position, at which point he was asked to cover the man with a blanket.
The man “had begun to cough and ‘splutter,’ and an ambulance was called. Shortly after this, officers were not able to find a pulse, so released the handcuffs and started CPR,” the report states. He was treated by paramedics and firefighters and taken to hospital where he later died, according to the IIO.
The man’s autopsy cited the “combined effects of delirium and multifactorial restraint,” which the report described as the period he was handcuffed, in combination with the exposure to pepper spray.
IIO investigates 5th officer-involved death in five weeks
“There was no evidence of neck compression, significant blunt force injuries, or significant bruising on the neck, back, or chest resulting from compression/restraint,” the report states.
“Other significant contributory conditions are described as “chronic polysubstance use, cardiomegaly [enlargement of the heart] and cold exposure,” the IIO report states. Because the man spent several days in hospital before his blood was drawn, toxicology reports were inconclusive, it states.
It further notes that the man’s medical records showed a history of medical, addiction and mental health issues it attributed to his actions on the day of his death.
In assessing the incident, IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald found the responding officers had lawful grounds to engage the man, and that the first officer on scene had offered an “extended opportunity” for de-escalation.
He further found it was not unreasonable for the officers to use pepper spray or the “bear hug” to take the man down, that they could not have anticipated handcuffing him would result in cardiac arrest, and that they offered medical assistance as soon as he shoed distress.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.