The step-brother of a man who died while in police custody in Saskatoon is upset about the case, expressing concern that someone could die under such circumstances.

Terry Grady said he learned Friday about the death of his step-brother Michael Ryan, 38, from a police sergeant who was informing next-of-kin about the case.

"Nobody should be dying of not natural causes in police custody," Grady said Saturday.

 Michael Ryan

A picture of Michael Ryan. His step-brother, Terry Grady, says Ryan died in police custody. (Terry Grady)

According to police, a 38-year-old man was arrested around 12:20 p.m. CST on Friday. He was walking into traffic on a busy road west of Saskatoon's downtown core at the time and appeared intoxicated, police said.

He was placed in a detention unit. At 3:20 p.m., police said staff found him "unresponsive" in his cell.

Police said they called the fire department and an ambulance to get emergency medical aid to the man. He was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Grady said he has been in touch with other family members, including the man's sister, who supported Grady talking about Ryan to the media.

'Clear somebody before they're just tossed in a cell like a dog at the pound.' - Terry Grady

Grady said, based on the limited information he was given, he believes Ryan's intoxication was likely related to drug use and his step-brother may have been experiencing an overdose.

"He was picked up on public intoxication and he was charged and he was booked," Grady said. "My question is ... if somebody is out in public and clearly on substances, would it not make ethical, moral sense —  and common sense — to make sure that person is cleared by a medical physician, or at minimum a nurse, before you book them and throw them in a cold cell?"

Grady said his step-brother was living a dangerous life but is concerned that his death happened while he was in custody.

"Yes, he was an addict. Yes, if he was going to OD, he was going to OD," Grady said. "But why is anybody dying in police custody?"

Step-brother interested in getting clean

Grady said he was close to his step-brother growing up, but the pair grew apart later in life. Grady said he recently reconnected with Ryan and learned the man wanted to end his addiction and sought help from Grady who is himself a recovering addict.

"He had expressed to me that he had wanted to change," Grady said. "He had wanted to get clean. And he wanted to come to some meetings with me, 12-step meetings."

Grady said the conversation about taking action took place five days ago.

"I myself am in recovery for drugs and alcohol ... so, I couldn't really be around him as much as I would want to."

Police said Saturday that officers from their major crimes unit have been investigating the case since Friday and have been interviewing several people, adding that no additional information was immediately available.

Grady said he believes police protocols for handling people under the influence of drugs or alcohol need to be reviewed.

"There needs to be change within the system," he said. "Go to a hospital or have a nurse on call that can respond to these things and clear somebody before they're just tossed in a cell like a dog at the pound."

In a statement about the case Friday, police said trained paramedics work in the detention area of the police station but not on daytime hours.

Grady said he has higher expectations of police.

"It comes down to accountability," he said, talking about his own job as an example.

"As a cab driver, if I get a bunch of kids in my cab, I'm responsible for those kids until I get them to [their destination]. While they're in my care, anything that happens is on my head."

Grady said he intends to follow up on the case with provincial politicians.