The lawyer for Mohammed Eshaq — the 27-year-old man who fell from the balcony of his 10th-floor south-end Halifax apartment after police broke into his unit — hopes his death will help strengthen support for Nova Scotians with mental illness.
Eshaq fell on Feb. 3 while at large from the Nova Scotia Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Dartmouth. He later died from his injuries.
Over the past 18 months, Eshaq spent many mornings at Dartmouth's mental health court. Kelly Rowlett was his legal aid lawyer.
"He had a lot of mental health issues that he was working through but he was working through them," she said.
Eshaq struggled with both schizophrenia and cognitive deficiencies.
Rowlett remembers his sense of humour, and his innocent quality.
"I'd be sitting over here and he'd say, 'Kelly, Hi. How are you? It's so good to see you,' but in open court. A good man, a lovely man. As I said to his mum, he's a good boy, a lovely boy. That's how I felt about him," she said.
Gamal Bineshaq, Eshaq's father, said worsening mental illness lead Eshaq to barricade himself inside his apartment twice in late January. The first incident happened on Jan. 16, the second on Jan. 21. Both times, talking convinced Eshaq to come away peacefully.
But last week, Eshaq ran away while on a 15-minute smoke pass. He barricaded the door of his 10th-floor apartment.
Police forced their way in. Minutes later, he fell from the balcony.
His parents wonder whether Eshaq would still be alive if police had not forced their way in.
'I hope he wasn't afraid'
"My first visceral gut reaction was I hope he wasn't afraid — that's the first thing that went through my head," said Rowlett.
"I felt maybe he was afraid and that's sort of what I was wondering about and what I worry about. I hope that wasn't his last thought."
The Serious Incident Response Team is investigating the incident.
"We're going to be looking to his history of mental illness. We're going to be looking at his course of stay where he was when he left the unit," said Ron MacDonald, the civilian and independent director of SIRT.
"We're going to be asking what his demeanour was, what his likely risks were — all of those issues are very important to the investigation."
Rowlett is still wondering about the circumstances leading up to her client's fatal fall.
"I wish that perhaps there would have been some more intervention in advance of what went down. However, I don't know enough to know whether there could have been," she said.
The Serious Incident Response team has met with Eshaq's parents. Formal interviews will take place at a later date. The final SIRT report will likely take several months.