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Peace officers failed to check on man who died in EPS custody and lied about it: ASIRT

Edmonton Police Service Headquarters in a file photo. Edmonton Police Service Headquarters in a file photo.

A pair of community peace officers violated Edmonton Police Service policy and then later lied to detectives after a man died in custody, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) revealed Wednesday.

The man, who has not been publicly named, was arrested by EPS officers for outstanding warrants at 10:50 p.m. on March 15, 2020.

He was taken to the city's Detainee Management Unit (DMU), located at EPS headquarters, where he was assessed by paramedics before being placed in a cell. The next morning another person was placed in the cell.

"The video appears to show (both men) consuming drugs while in the cell," the ASIRT report says.

The man then laid down on a bench.

"At 8:13 a.m., (he) appeared to spasm twice. He moved slightly in the next two minutes, but no further movement was noticeable on the cell video after 8:15 a.m.," the report states.

Community peace officers (CPOs) entered the cell twice after that point but they didn't notice anything was wrong until paramedics were called and the man was given naloxone and CPR at 1:42 p.m.

He could not be resuscitated and an autopsy later concluded he died of fentanyl toxicity.

After analyzing video, ASIRT found that the peace officers failed to do a single arousal check on the man from 8:30 a.m. to 1:42 p.m.

"Arousal checks must be completed every hour. Arousal checks require that a detainee be awoken and spoken to in order to confirm that they are responsive and not in need of medical assistance. Arousal checks can be done with the CPO outside of the cell but, if the detainee does not respond, the CPO must enter the cell," the report states.

Both peace officers were later interviewed by EPS detectives. One told investigators that arousal checks had been done every 40 minutes, the other stated that he did a check at 12:40 p.m. but had no concerns.

"The CPOs on duty that day did not follow EPS policy, and then CPO1 and CPO2 appear to have tried to hide this," ASIRT's report states.

Investigators concluded that the EPS arresting officers did nothing wrong and that the "actions of the CPOs are outside the mandate of ASIRT."

On Thursday, a spokesperson for Alberta Justice said her department is unable to comment because the findings of the investigation "are currently being reviewed by the peace officer program."

Now that ASIRT has concluded its investigation, EPS will be conducting an "internal review of the situation," a spokesperson for the service confirmed Thursday adding that both of the officers involved are still employed by EPS.

"EPS policies relating to detainee care and checks are thorough; however, according to the ASIRT report, it appears regular policy and procedure weren’t followed in this case. This will also form part of the EPS’ follow-up investigation," Cheryl Voordenhout told CTV News Edmonton.

The city's DMU was moved to the new EPS Northwest Campus in 2021 and Voordenhout said several improvements have been made in the new facility including additional staff, individual cells and body scanners to reduce drug smuggling.


Correction: Initial versions of this report stated that the death occurred at the EPS Northwest Campus but the DMU had not yet been moved from EPS headquarters. Top Stories

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