Edmonton

Officers apologize to family as Trevor Proudman's fatality inquiry gets underway

The Edmonton police officers involved in the death of a disabled man in the back of a police van in 2014 apologized to his family Monday during a fatality inquiry.

'For them to actually come forth, as one human being to another and apologize for what happened, it's nice'

Trevor Proudman (right) had Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder linked with obesity and behaviour problems. He died after officers handcuffed him and left him alone in a police van. (Supplied)

The Edmonton police officers involved in the death of a disabled man in the back of a police van in 2014 apologized to his family Monday during a fatality inquiry.

Sgt. Lael Sauter and Const. Colton Roy had responded to a call that Trevor Proudman was causing a disturbance at a clinic on Nov. 12, 2014.

The officers had placed Proudman, 32, on his side in a police van, with his hands cuffed behind his back. When they returned to release him, he was unresponsive. 

A medical examiner determined that he died of positional asphyxia.

Apologies in court

"I'm sincerely sorry for your loss," Sauter said to Proudman's mother and brother in Edmonton's provincial court. 

Sauter said he had learnt important lessons from what happened that day, but that "unfortunately we learn through errors in judgment."

"I regret I couldn't help Trevor more," Roy said. "I did do my best."

Proudman's mother, Maureen Harland, told CBC News that she appreciated the apologies on a very difficult day. 

"He said he has troubles driving down 97th Street past the clinic where it happened," she told reporters.

" 'I can't still, to this day, go by there,' " Harland said Sauter told her. "It's really affected him as well, he's human." 

"Even this far along, for them to actually come forth, as one human being to another and apologize for what happened, it's nice," said Trevor's brother, Richard Proudman.

Maureen Harland and Richard Proudman don't understand why police officers cuffed and held Trevor Proudman in a police van, after he caused a disturbance at a medical clinic. (Phil Laplante/CBC)

Officers testify 

Lawyer Samantha Labahn, who represents the Proudman family, questioned the officers regarding the information that was made available to them before responding to the call, such as the fact that Proudman had a cognitive disability.

Proudman had a rare genetic disorder known as Prader-Willi syndrome, which is linked with obesity and behaviour problems. 

Sauter and Roy had each responded to the call alone in separate police vehicles and said they were unable to read the information while driving. 

"I didn't feel that it was practical to stop and query information," Sauter said.

As a sergeant, Sauter was not conducting the investigation, but accompanied Roy inside the clinic, leaving Proudman alone in the van.

"In hindsight, one of us could of gone in," Sauter said. 

Since the Proudman's death, the Edmonton Police Service has established a policy that prevents people from being left alone in a police van. 

The fatality inquiry is scheduled for one week and once concluded the judge can issue recommendations to avoid a similar tragedy, but can not determine who is responsible for Proudman's death.

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