A father is calling for accountability after his son died in the custody of Grande Prairie RCMP.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team confirmed on Thursday that it was directed to investigate the death of Addison Hartzler, after it was originally handled by a speciality unit within the Grande Prairie RCMP. Greg Hartzler, Addison’s father, said the oversight body should have been investigating the death from the beginning.
ASIRT is an independent team created under Alberta’s Police Act to investigate situations where Alberta police may have caused serious injury or death or when significant allegations of police misconduct have been made.
It’s reported that Addison called 9-1-1 on June 3, 2022 for what he believed to be a break and enter at his home. The family says it was told officers failed to find evidence of a break and enter and decided to take Addison into custody for public mischief, something they don’t believe there was reasonable grounds for.
Instead, the Hartzlers argue Addison’s behaviour indicated that a doctor or emergency services should have assessed him before being detained. It’s alleged the officer who detained him said Addison was either unable or unwilling to provide his name and police were holding him in order to identify him for the charge. It’s also claimed by the family that, in a phone conversation after the incident, RCMP said Addison was acting in a psychotic and delusional manner.
“At no point in time was Addison ever medically assessed and should have been probably should have been multiple times and, quite honestly, if he would have been mentally assessed, we believe he would have been in the Grande Prairie hospital and this likely would not have occurred,” says Greg.
He argues the family does not know what happened in the nine-hour window while his son was in police custody because it is challenging to get substantial information from RCMP. He adds he expects it to be a long process to get answers.
“What we don’t know is what happened to Addison after he was placed in the RCMP cruiser at approximately 2 a.m. on June 3rd. The next thing we know, he’s dead in their custody. What we know, what is totally alarming is that he was dead in the cell for over two hours. That’s what’s just baffling and, again, the RCMP assured us that he was being checked on every 15 minutes and we now know that that isn’t factual.”
Information obtained by the family from Alberta Health Services indicated Addison was last seen alive at 9 a.m., more than two hours before RCMP called EMS.
“The EMS report indicated that Addison was ‘obviously dead’ and had been for some time,” a statement by the family includes.
“The RCMP in Canada need to be held accountable,” Greg says. “Things like this should not happen; they have a duty of care and once you and I go into their custody and we can’t act for ourself. They need to ensure that the utmost care is being given to anybody that is in their custody and Grande Prairie RCMP in this case definitely did not do that, should have done it, and because of it, our son’s dead.”
Greg said he believes an internal investigation into his son’s death was neither appropriate nor adequate and he hopes an ASIRT investigation can hold officers, staff and the RCMP accountable. The RCMP is also under investigation by ASIRT for an unrelated death in custody that occurred on February 8, 2021, at the same detachment.
MyGrandePrairieNow.com has reached out to the RCMP and ASIRT for comment.
With files from Tyler Hay