Police watchdog clears Coquitlam cops after man dies following struggle with RCMP

There are no reasonable grounds to charge Coquitlam RCMP officers with a crime related to an incident last year in which a man died in hospital two days after being arrested near the 300-block of Balfour Drive.

Shortly after 3 a.m. on Oct. 19, 2021, Coquitlam RCMP were called to the neighbourhood near R.C. MacDonald Elementary and asked to help find a man who was said to have left his house intoxicated while wearing only a t-shirt and underwear, according to a release from the Independent Investigations Office of B.C.

Police found the man pounding on the front door of a house. The man aggressively pursued one of the officers, according to cellphone video examined by IIO.

While the officer backed away, the man charged after him with “arms extended in a zombie-like attitude,” according to the IIO report signed by chief civilian director Ronald J. MacDonald.

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While the man’s hands were empty, his actions appeared threatening, according to the report. At times, he closed to “within two or three arm-lengths from the retreating officer,” the report stated.

The retreating cop told other officers it looked like the man “wants to fight.” The officer hit the man with pepper spray in an effort to subdue him, according to police radio recordings of the incident.

A second officer arrived on the scene and tackled the man to the ground using what a civilian witness described as a “bear hug.”

There is no evidence the police struck the man, according to the report.

There was blood on the man’s face “before he was taken to the ground,” according to a police officer who witnessed the incident.

Another officer who saw the event said the man had been placed in handcuffs and that he was asked to get a blanket to cover him.

Around the time, the man began to cough and “splutter.”

An ambulance was called.

After being unable to find a pulse, officers unlocked the handcuffs and started CPR.

The man was taken to hospital and declared dead on Oct. 21, 2021.

He died of due to the combined effects of delirium “multifactorial restraint” from the brief period when he was facedown and handcuffed, according to the report.

“. . . while this position alone would not cause significant breathing difficulty, it likely contributed to breathing difficulty in the setting of a state of delirium and exposure to OC spray,” the autopsy report stated.

The autopsy report also noted that the man’s chronic polysubstance use, enlargement of his heart and the cold temperature of the early morning all contributed to the man’s condition.

The man had been suffering for a significant period from mental health, addictions and medical issues that led to his death, according to the report.

There is no evidence that it was “unreasonable” to pepper spray the man or to tackle him to the ground, according to the IIO report.

The officers “could not have predicted” that placing the man on the ground in handcuffs for a brief time would lead to the man’s cardiac arrest and his subsequent death.

The matter will not be referred by the IIO to Crown counsel for consideration of criminal charges..


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