British Columbia

Jacob Setah coroner's inquest: family looking for answers about RCMP role in death

A coroner's jury in Kamloops, B.C. heard Tuesday about the last moments of Jacob Setah's life, before he jumped from a parkade at Royal Inland Hospital two years ago.

Setah, 18, escaped from a secure hospital ward and died after jumping off a parkade in 2014

Jacob Setah, 18, escaped from a secure ward of the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, B.C., and jumped from the three-storey parkade. (Interior Health Authority)

A coroner's jury in Kamloops, B.C. heard Tuesday about the last moments of Jacob Setah's life, before the aboriginal teen jumped from a parkade at Royal Inland Hospital two years ago.

Setah, 18, was from the Yunesit'in First Nation near Williams Lake, B.C., and  had been committed under the Mental Health Act and taken to the Kamloops hospital.

He escaped his secure ward and climbed to the top of the three-level hospital parkade, where RCMP Cpl. Jana Starr responded with her partner.

Starr told the jury the teen was ranting, yelling at the sky and calling himself God. He was near the ledge and threatening to jump if police came closer, Starr testified.

3 smokes

Starr told the jury the she negotiated with the teen for 40 minutes, asking whether she could call his family for help — a mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, girlfriend, anybody?

He didn't respond, she said, except to ask for a smoke. She put the cigarette on the ground for him to pick up, because he wouldn't come close.

On the third smoke, Starr's partner used his conducted-energy weapon, or Taser, which knocked Setah down, but he got back up.

He was gone so fast, Starr said, she couldn't get to him before he jumped off the ledge of the parkade.

A lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society who is representing Setah's family and the Yunesit'in First Nation at the inquest said there is a lot of frustration in the community about what happened.

"There are a lot of questions in our mind about police use-of-force training, crisis intervention training, and also why there wasn't a crisis negotiator brought into the scene," said lawyer Douglas King.

"There's a sense I guess that there was a young life that was lost, that was unnecessarily lost, and there's a demand for ... answers to those questions."

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C., which investigates deaths and serious injuries involving police officers, has previously found the officers in the case did not commit any offence.

Family worried about mental health

Earlier in the inquiry, the jury heard how Setah's family had been worried about his mental health, due to angry and paranoid rants.

They took him to the Williams Lake hospital, but he was transferred to Kamloops because Royal Inland had a secure ward.

He was prescribed a regular dose of anti-psychotic medicine, used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But a toxicology report from Setah's autopsy only showed a low level of the drug — about 15 per cent of what would be expected on the prescribed dose.

As in any coroner's inquest, the five-member jury is not tasked with finding blame, but is expected to determine the cause of Setah's death and make recommendations on what, if anything, can be done to prevent similar deaths in the future.

The inquest is expected to conclude Wednesday.

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