Halifax police cleared in mentally ill man's death: SIRT

The Serious Incident Response Team has cleared Halifax Regional Police of criminal wrongdoing in the death of Mohammed Eshaq.

Mohammed Eshaq, 27, fell from his 10th-floor apartment in early February

Eshaq fell on Feb. 3 while at large from the Nova Scotia Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Dartmouth. He later died from his injuries. (Courtesy of Gamal Bineshaq)

The Serious Incident Response Team has cleared Halifax Regional Police of criminal wrongdoing in the death of Mohammed Eshaq.

The 27-year-old mentally ill man fell from his 10th-floor apartment in early February.

"Knowing that an involuntary patient is a person who may be a danger to themselves, the police made the decision to enter the apartment to ensure the safety of the man. Upon entry through a barricaded door, he was found sitting on the outside edge of the balcony. Other officers retreated, and one attempted to convince the man to come back inside. However, the man eventually fell from the balcony. He was rushed to hospital, but died approximately an hour later," the report, released Wednesday, read.

"The police have a duty to protect life, and in the circumstances were justified in entering the apartment out of concern for the health and safety of the man."

Ron MacDonald, the independent civilian director of SIRT, said the decision to enter a home when someone is distraught is a difficult one. 

"If they had just stood outside the door and he was in dire medical straits inside, and something bad happened to him, then they're in a dilemma as well," he said." 

"The police are in a very difficult position when they have to deal with persons who are suffering from mental health issues, and they have to make decisions on the spot — and it's too easy to go back and second guess, and you have to look at the decision as it was made at the time and their decision was justified." 

Eshaq's father Gamal Bineshaq has not seen the report, but as an affected party, he was able to speak to the SIRT about it.

Munira Bobsaid and Gamal Bineshaq say if police handled things better, their son would still be alive. (CBC )

Bineshaq says he and his wife think of their son Mohammed every day. They say they avoid driving anywhere near their son's south-end apartment building.

"We are coping, it's pretty tough to lose a son. Memories aren't going away. My wife keeps telling me, 'I don't know, did we do something wrong?'"

Eshaq lived with schizophrenia and cognitive delays. 

He ran away from Simpson Landing, located at the Nova Scotia Hospital, while on a 15-minute smoke pass.

First he visited his mother at home. She took him to pick up belongings from his old apartment in south-end Halifax.

But when she left to go home and inform the Nova Scotia Hospital, Eshaq stayed behind and locked himself inside. 

Eshaq's family said Feb. 3 was the third time the 27-year-old had barricaded himself in his apartment in less than three weeks.

Situation could have been handled differently, says Bineshaq

Twice before, police and family members talked him out peacefully. This time, staff at Simpson Landing called police and five officers forced the apartment door. 

A short time later, Eshaq fell to his death. 

Bineshaq says his son was scared of police. He believes Mohammed fell trying to get away from them.  

He said the director of the SIRT told him police broke no laws but Bineshaq hopes the officers' accounts will shed light on what happened. 

Currently, Mohammed’s death certificate states the death was a suicide.

Bineshaq said they don’t accept that term in referring to their son’s death.

“Because its not a suicide,” he said. “Police forced in and that really triggered him to fall down. That’s my issue, so it should not be mentioned as a suicide.”

"They're the only guys that were there. They can say whatever they're going to say," he said. "Our son is dead."