The family of a man who died in Grande Prairie RCMP custody is disputing the timeline given for his death. Police say the 26-year-old was arrested the afternoon of February 7th and was found unresponsive in his cell at the detachment the next morning. The family has chosen not to publicly identify him at this time.
The RCMP says officers were called to help Emergency Medical Services with a man needing medical assistance at a home in the city around 1:54 p.m. on the 7th. It’s reported he was acting “extremely erratic” and mounties believed he was high.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, a provincial oversight body investigating the incident, added in its initial report that he had taken drugs and was creating a disturbance.
However, his family says it didn’t happen that way. Cousin Alicia Gordon says the man was asking for medical help, suggesting that he may have been suffering from hallucinations, and saying he couldn’t tell the difference between what was real and what wasn’t.
“He wasn’t high; we did not want him to get arrested, we didn’t even know he was being detained in a Grande Prairie cell, he was supposed to be in the hospital.”
Gordon was not at the home at the time and is relaying information from her mother, with whom the deceased was staying at the time of the incident. She adds the paramedics then asked police to take the man to the hospital, but the next update they got on his condition was the news of his death.
“We didn’t know he was detained until the morning the cops showed up at my mom’s house to tell her that he died in police custody.”
The ASIRT investigation will include a review of what took place in the cellblock, RCMP training, policy, response, and employees’ actions. Gordon says she feels like the RCMP is making her cousin look like a villain and a drug addict.
“He was a sweet guy, he was funny, he made everybody laugh… he was a sweetheart,” she says. “Like everybody, he had his issues, but he was still an amazing guy.”
No timeline has been offered as to when the investigation is expected to be completed. In its initial media release, ASIRT officials added no further information will be released at this time as the investigation remains active.