British Columbia

Family demanding answers after death of Jocelyn George in police custody

The question looming over the funeral for 18-year-old Jocelyn George is how she ended up dead after an overnight stay in the cells of the Port Alberni RCMP.

Indigenous teen died after spending the night in the cells at the Port Alberni RCMP detachment

The family of Jocelyn George, who died in police custody, gathered in Port Alberni for her funeral Wednesday. (CHEK)

With pain etched on their faces, the family of Jocelyn George gathered in Port Alberni, B.C. for the funeral of the 18-year-old mother of two.

The one question looming over them: how did she end up dead after an overnight stay in the cells of the Port Alberni RCMP detachment?

Jocelyn George with Christopher Cenname and their now four-month-old daughter. (Provided by Christopher Cenname)

Outside of the funeral on Wednesday, her cousin Lee Lucas said there is an immediate need to hear from investigators about what happened to George while she was in police custody last Thursday night.

"We know she was brought in and they said she was okay, and she was found in the morning. Our main concern is to find out what happened in the time between when she was arrested and when the ambulance picked her up," Lucas said.

George was taken to the West Coast General Hospital on the Friday morning after she was found "in need of medical attention" in her cell, according to the BC Coroners Service, but did not release the cause of death yet.

'This is happening far too much'

Lucas said he believes RCMP were well aware of the alcohol and drug problems his cousin had been dealing with. The family is asking for an investigation into the way people with addictions are dealt with by police.

"If things can change from this, if cop protocols can change from this when they bring someone in who has issues like this..." said her cousin Lee Lucas. 

"You have got to look at how they are brought in and why they are not checked out," said Lucas.

"Sometimes things have to change because this is happening far too much especially for our people in this province."

George was a member of the Ahousaht and Hesquiaht First Nations.

Tough wait for answers

The Independent Investigations Office is now expected to spend as long as 18 months to determine whether the RCMP did anything wrong in handling George while she was in custody.

The family of Jocelyn George, including her uncle Linus Lucas, wants to know how the 18-year-old died after an overnight stay in the cells at the Port Alberni RCMP detachment. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"It's a tough wait for my sister because right now she is in a lot of pain and not having any answers to why this happened" said Linus Lucas, George's uncle.

Lucas said his family has not been told if there is video footage from inside the cell where George was held. But if there is video available, Lucas added his family would like to see it.

The family is also concerned that they were not notified that George was being moved from lock-up at the Port Alberni RCMP detachment to the local hospital.

"We wouldn't have even found out that she was brought to the hospital if it wasn't for the native hospital worker who called my sister and said, '"Your daughter has been brought up here,'" added Lucas.