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Prince George RCMP will not be charged after July 2019 police custody death: IIO BC

Report found police were not negligent regarding a woman’s death on July 19, 2019
The Prince George RCMP detachment on Victoria Street. (via Hanna Petersen)

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO BC) will not be moving forward with charges in the matter of a woman's death while in Prince George RCMP custody last year.

In the report released on Friday (April 17), Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. MacDonald found there was no evidence that any officer used inappropriate force on the woman or that any officer neglected his or her duty in caring for the woman while she was in police custody.

The event happened on the evening of July 19, 2019, when Prince George RCMP arrested the woman for causing a disturbance. 

She was lodged in cells and, in the early hours of the next day, was found to be in medical distress. She was transported to hospital where she passed away later that morning.

At the time of her arrest shortly before 9 p.m., both arresting officers described the woman to be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and noted she was not wearing shoes.

She was described as having slurred speech and an odour of liquor and her arms were “constantly twitching.”

The officer said the plan for the woman was to hold her in custody until she was sober enough to be released, and the report states she was compliant and there is no evidence any force was used in handcuffing her or transporting her to the RCMP detachment.

The RCMP prisoner report recorded signs of intoxication, but also noted the woman was placid and responsive and had no medical issues other than the consumption of drugs and alcohol.

At 9:42 p.m. she was initially placed in a cell alone, but another female detainee was then brought into the cell. The report states the affected woman can be seen on the cell video constantly moving around either sitting on the floor or pacing and repeatedly shouting.

Nearly an hour later, she was moved to another cell where she was housed on her own. The report states as she was escorted by an officer from one cell to the other, her transition appears to be relatively normal.

Once in the new cell, IIO says the footage showed her continuously moving around, sitting on a bench or pacing, or going to the cell door and shouting.

Between 12:35 a.m. and 3:44 a.m., the report states she continues moving around erratically, but now mostly on the cell floor. The guard log contains several observations during this period, describing her as moving around on the floor and yelling. The report states that physical checks are made and all prisoners are noted as breathing.

At 3:53 a.m., an officer can be seen entering the cell and bending over the woman.

The officer says he noticed the woman lying on the cell floor and believed she may be having a seizure. He entered the cell and tried to talk to the woman but she was unresponsive. An ambulance was called and an officer administered naloxone to the woman who reacted violently to the drug, kicking and flailing.

When paramedics arrived, they noted it was difficult to treat the woman because of her constant movement, but when they were working on her she became still and was found to have no pulse so CPR was administered.

Once stabilized, she was transported to the hospital at 4:27 a.m. The report states no narcotics or drug paraphernalia were found in her cell or on her person and there is no evidence she consumed anything while in custody.

At 6:20 a.m., she was declared deceased at the hospital. An autopsy was performed on July 29, 2019, which found there were no signs of trauma or disease and the cause of death was reported as “methamphetamine toxicity.”

The report looked at whether or not any officer may have committed an offence involving negligence that contributed to her death.

“The evidence, in this case, supports a conclusion that monitoring of [the woman] was satisfactory. When her behaviour changed from the pattern of unfocused movements it had followed for several hours, to a posture consistent with seizure, officers very quickly responded and took all appropriate actions to get medical attention for her,” writes MacDonald.

You can read the full report online.

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