A Yukon man who died in RCMP custody in 2008 was left largely unattended in a police drunk tank in the hours leading up to his death, a coroner's inquest heard this week in Whitehorse.
Whitehorse RCMP officers found Raymond Silverfox, 43, unresponsive in his holding cell on the evening of Dec. 2, more than 12 hours after he had been brought into custody. He died in hospital a short time later.
The inquest panel, which has been hearing testimony since last Thursday, has been tasked with determining the cause of death and clarifying the events that led up to it.
The panel heard that Silverfox was intoxicated when he was picked up at the local Salvation Army shelter around 5 a.m. on Dec. 2.
RCMP Const. Jeffrey Kalles, who was on duty the day Silverfox died, testified on Tuesday that he observed Silverfox through a video monitor but did not check on him in person.
Kalles said when he returned to the detachment around 3 p.m., a guard had told him Silverfox's cell was very dirty. He estimated about 60 per cent of the cell floor was covered with vomit and feces.
But Kalles said he did not consider asking for medical help, as he was busy at the time. He added that it was not his responsibility to make sure the cell was cleaned.
Silverfox wasn't taken to hospital until around 6:30 p.m. that evening.
'Tough outer skin'
Susan Roothman, the lawyer for the Silverfox family, questioned Kalles about the amount of care given to people in custody, asking if officers ever go beyond the call of duty and show compassion.
In response, Kalles said Whitehorse RCMP officers cannot be as compassionate as they want to be because they are too busy.
Kalles conceded that after working 19 years in the police force, he had developed a "tough outer skin."
"I've learned to tune some things out," he told the inquest panel, admitting that sometimes, officers become desensitized.
As for the conditions in Silverfox's cell, Kalles said they were not typical but added, "It wouldn't faze me."
Kalles said he assumed that since Silverfox was being detained in the drunk tank, he was vomiting and defecating because he was intoxicated.
Asked if needed help
On Monday, Const. Dennis Connelly told the inquest panel he could not recall two other occupants of the drunk tank telling him that Silverfox needed help when he released them at 7 a.m.
One of those occupants, Douglas Jack Jr., had earlier testified that he told a guard Silverfox needed help, but the guard said they were too busy that day.
Connelly testified that he checked on Silverfox at 7:20 a.m. and noticed the man had wet himself. When asked if he needed help, Silverfox did not reply, according to Connelly.
Connelly said he checked again at around 8 a.m. and saw Silverfox rolling on the floor. Connelly said when he asked Silverfox again if he was OK, Silverfox opened his eyes and looked at him but did not speak.
The inquest continues through this week.