Dozens of people arrested for intoxication have died in police holding cells. These are their stories
In many cases, people weren't properly monitored or deteriorating health conditions weren't addressed
Over 60 people in Canada have died in police custody since 2010 after being arrested while intoxicated.
In dozens of those cases, the person in custody wasn't properly monitored or their deteriorating health condition wasn't addressed, a CBC investigation has found.
These deaths typically draw less scrutiny than a police shooting.
When investigations into these in-custody deaths are complete, they're most often deemed deaths from "natural causes."
But behind each death is a person who had family and friends. Often, the person who died was battling addiction.
Drawing on interviews with family and reviews of reports from inquests, media, police and watchdog agencies, CBC's Death in Custody project aimed to put names and faces to these often unreported deaths.
Here are some of their stories.
Saskatoon police thought 19-year-old Brandon Daniels was drunk when they found him sitting outside a downtown theatre in July 2010. In fact, Daniels had taken a fatal dose of Tylenol, after buying two 650-pill bottles of the medication.
His mother, Sherry Bird, says her son began suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness the previous year and forgot his medication at home when he went to Saskatoon.
She believes he must have bought the Tylenol as a substitute for his medication, and when it didn't work, he just kept taking more.
At an inquest into his death, Saskatoon police Sgt. Randy Huisman testified the city's short-term detox unit was full the day Daniels was arrested. Officers didn't call an ambulance or bring Daniels to the hospital, even though that was an option.
Surveillance video played at the inquest showed police put Daniels in a wheelchair because he was unable to walk. He barely moved off the floor after he was placed in a cell, the video shows.
Coroner Alma Wiebe testified that police intervention at any point while Daniels was lying on the jail cell floor could have prevented his death.
"They could have saved his life," Bird said in an interview with CBC News.
Bird, who is a member of the Mistawasis First Nation, says her son was a sweet and kind young man, who looked after his brothers and sisters.
"He helped everybody. Whoever he could."
Cheryl Simon, 42, a member of the Samson Cree First Nation, was taken into custody in April 2014 for causing a disturbance after police were called to a Maskwacis, Alta., gas station with a report of intoxicated people panhandling.
According to a 2020 inquiry into her death, the arresting officer planned to release her without charges once she sobered up.
Dr. Helgardt Dippenaar, a family doctor in nearby Wetaskiwin, testified he was confident Simon would have lived if she had been taken to the hospital.
Instead, she was taken to the RCMP detachment, where paramedics assessed her and found several medication bottles in her jacket.
Guards at the detachment found Simon seven hours after she was put in the cell. She had died from multiple drug toxicity, the medical examiner determined.
According to the inquiry, guards did not check on Simon as regularly as national policy requires.
"It gets written off as something like, 'She's just high or just drunk. We'll just let her sleep it off,'" said Johndel Simon, Cheryl Simon's brother.
She was a typical big sister — "the one who we'd go to talk to about things," he said.
"To have her suddenly be taken, there's no way to prepare for that."
Johndel Simon wants someone to admit a mistake.
"Nothing is going to bring my sister back," he said.
"But if this can help somebody else in the future or if this could change policy, then that would bring me some relief."
Marlon (Roland) McKay and Don Mamakwa
One family in Thunder Bay, Ont., lost two loved ones, arrested in separate incidents for public intoxication.
Marlon (Roland) McKay, 50, was from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, an Oji-Cree First Nation roughly 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
According to an investigation by Ontario's police watchdog, Thunder Bay police were called on July 19, 2017, with a report of a man passed out behind a business.
The Special Investigation Unit report says police took him to a jail cell because officers couldn't find a safe place for him to stay or get a bed at the detox centre.
"I know my family still asks questions, and they get frustrated because no one is getting answers," said Denise Tait, McKay's niece. "There's a lot of anger."
Don Mamakwa, another of Tait's uncles, died in a Thunder Bay cell three years before McKay.
Mamakwa, from Kasabonika First Nation, was arrested after police found him unconscious outside a church in August 2014. He couldn't stand on his own and complained of difficulty breathing, according to a Special Investigations Unit report.
Police and paramedics felt he was feigning illness to avoid being put in a jail cell. He was found lifeless early the next morning in the cell.
The investigation "revealed a largely cavalier attitude" in the way he was cared for in police custody, SIU director Tony Loparco wrote in the report.
Officers "failed in their duty," he wrote.
Mamakwa and McKay's deaths will be reviewed in the same inquest when it restarts in 2022, after a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tait wants to hear one thing when the inquest restarts.
"That there will be no more deaths in the jail cells," she said. "That's what I hope."
Jamie Shanoss, 51, was arrested by RCMP officers in November 2016 after he was found unconscious on the sidewalk in Prince George, B.C. Civilian guards hired by the city didn't follow policy when checking on Shanoss when he was passed out in a cell, a coroner's inquest found.
Adele Morin, 39, died in a cell at a northern Saskatchewan RCMP detachment in October 2014. The cause of death was an alcohol and hydromorphone overdose, an inquest heard.
The inquest jury recommended better surveillance of prisoners at the Sandy Bay RCMP detachment, and that officers and guards not assume someone is just sleeping if they seem unconscious.
Douglas Morissette, 57, was arrested more than 40 times for alcohol-related offences. He died in a Saskatoon police jail cell in January 2013 of an overdose of alcohol and methadone.
Saskatoon's then police chief said addiction was the responsibility of police only by default.
"It's a health issue," Clive Weighill said in an interview with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. "There's absolutely no way we can continue to keep putting people in detention areas who should be in a health facility."
Stanley Robillard, 46, was arrested after falling backward and hitting his head outside a Saskatoon bar in July 2010. Robillard, a member of Muskoday First Nation, was found unresponsive in a police detention cell the next morning.
Michael Ryan, 38, died hours after he was arrested by Saskatoon police in February 2016. A bag containing what was believed to be drugs was found in Ryan's throat after he died. The coroner's inquest into his death recommended that police improve body searches and that guards set a timer to ensure accurate cell checks.
Adam Sprague, 25, died after he was wrongfully arrested on private property for public intoxication in Orangeville, Ont., in November 2011. He died of an oxycodone overdose. An inquest into his death found police failed to properly monitor his condition while he was detained in a jail cell overnight.
Ina Matawapit, 37, was taken by police in June 2012 to the nursing station in Weagamow First Nation, about 530 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, complaining of chest pain. Medical staff told police to bring her back when she sobered up. Her condition deteriorated in a jail cell and police rushed her back to the nursing station, where she died of heart failure.
Arthur Scott, 40, only responded to "painful stimuli" when he was found passed out on the side of a rural road in July 2013, according to Nova Scotia's police watchdog. Police took him to the RCMP detachment in Liverpool, N.S., where they placed him on a blanket and dragged him into a cell. He never regained consciousness.
John Burke, 52, fell off a dirt path in September 2013 and was too drunk to get up on his own. Halifax police were called and put Burke in a jail cell to sleep off his intoxication. The officer didn't follow policy and rouse Burke while checking on him because Burke appeared to be sleeping.
Paul Kayuryuk, 57, was found unconscious at the landfill in Baker Lake, Nunavut, in October 2012. RCMP officers assumed Kayuryuk, who was Inuit, was drunk and put him in a jail cell. In fact, Kayuryuk was diabetic and suffering a stroke. He was later medevaced to Winnipeg, where he died.
Arnold Martin, 71, was found by police while on his hands and knees on an Amherst, N.S., sidewalk in June 2019. Police officers helped him off the ground and Martin began having bouts of vomiting, which continued after he was put in a jail cell. He was eventually taken to hospital, where it was determined he had suffered a stroke. He died the next day.
Frank Whitford, 19, was found unresponsive in an Alberta police cell after being taken into custody for public intoxication in November 2019. He later died in hospital from multi-system organ failure. His death was reported only on a provincial medical examiner's list of inquiries that have yet to be scheduled. The location of his death was not listed.
Randy Lampreau, 49, a member of the Simpcw First Nation, fell and hit his head while in an RCMP cell in Kamloops, B.C., in March 2019. Lampreau wasn't taken to hospital and the guard assumed he was "sleeping it off." The family believes Lampreau would still be alive if he was properly assessed.
Brian Buss, age unknown, fell several times behind a mall in Kitimat, B.C., in June 2020. RCMP couldn't find anyone to take care of him, so he was taken to a concrete-floored jail cell where he fell several more times. He died in hospital two days later.
Michael Palliser, 45, was taken into custody by Kativik Regional Police in northern Quebec in August 2020. He was in a cell for approximately two hours before he was found unresponsive.
Celine Samuel, 44, from Northlands Denesuline First Nation in northern Manitoba, was taken into custody on suspicion of being intoxicated in February 2020. The province's medical examiner called an inquest into Samuel's death in October.
Debralee Chrisjohn, 39, of Oneida of the Thames First Nation in southwestern Ontario, was arrested in London, Ont., in September 2016. London police Const. Nicholas Doering was sentenced to 12 months in jail for criminal negligence in Chrisjohn's death.
While Doering was driving her to be transferred to Ontario Provincial Police custody, her medical condition deteriorated. Doering lied to the OPP officers, telling them paramedics had already checked Chrisjohn. She was taken to hospital, where she died.
Brandon Stephen, 24, from the northern Quebec Cree community of Waskaganish, was taken into custody on Jan. 1, 2018, and was believed to be under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He was taken to the medical clinic after complaining about stomach pain and died a few hours later.
Jimmy (Sivuak) Eliyassialuk, 22, an Inuk man from Puvirnituq, Que., was one of two people arrested for public intoxication after police broke up a party in April 2017. Police took the other man home, but brought Eliyassialuk to a holding cell. He died of alcohol poisoning.
Bradley Stadey, 52, died in December 2011 in Estevan, Sask., after being arrested for causing a disturbance related to drinking. He was taken to a holding cell, where he was found dead in the morning. Little is known about his death — there is no police watchdog in the province, and a coroner's inquest wasn't called because his death was deemed "natural."
Mark Essery, 56, was arrested in Newmarket, Ont., in July 2012. Police found Essery in medical distress when they arrived at the detachment and took him to hospital. Doctors removed a plastic bag with two different substances inside Essery's throat.
Jeremy Richardson, 34, was taken to an RCMP cell in Duncan, B.C., after he was found unconscious on a sidewalk in April 2012. He fell while in custody, but officers didn't immediately call paramedics because they thought he was "sleeping it off." He died the following day in hospital.
Alyssa George, 25, was taken to a Terrace, B.C., RCMP jail cell in September 2013. Her husband, who was in another cell at the detachment, told guards she was sick. The detachment watch commander and guards did not physically check on George as often as required by RCMP policy, according to the inquest held into her death.
Deanna Noname, 55, was arrested in August 2017 by Edmonton police responding to a public intoxication call at a light-rail transit station. Officers put Noname in a cell, where she was found unresponsive the next day. She was taken to hospital, where she died of what was determined to be a stroke.
Tracy Okemow, 31, died in 2012 after spending the night in a Manitoba RCMP holding cell in God's Lake First Nation. A subsequent police investigation found that her cries for help were ignored by the guards and the local nursing station initially decided not to medevac her for further medical observation.
Derek Glodek, 26, was arrested in February 2021 by RCMP in Grande Prairie, Alta. Police said Glodek refused to go to the hospital or a shelter before he was taken into custody. The family disputes that, and says they asked first responders to take Glodek to the hospital.
Lindsey Izony, 36, and her brother were arrested in a Prince George, B.C., park in July 2019. The police watchdog report says Izony was yelling in her cell. Izony's brother says that was his sister screaming for help because she was in medical distress. She was taken to hospital, where she died.
Michael Mullock, 50, began vomiting in an RCMP cell in Airdrie, Alta., after he was arrested in May 2019. Paramedics assessed Mullock and decided he didn't need to go to the hospital and left him there. He died a few hours later.
Sylvia Panaktalok, 54, an Inuk woman from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., was arrested in July 2021. She died less than two hours after being put in the RCMP cell. Information is sparse on her death, because it's still being investigated.
Joe John Tssessaze, 47, was arrested under Manitoba's Intoxicated Persons Detention Act by Thompson RCMP in September 2021. He was found unresponsive hours after he was placed in a cell. The incident is still under investigation.
Jason Snow, 38, was unable to stand or speak coherently when police found him at a bus station in Barrie, Ont., in March 2011. He was taken to a jail cell where he died from the effects of methanol intoxication.
Robert Wood, 59, was found in the lobby of a VLT facility in Nelson House, Man., by RCMP in late December 2009. Over the next few hours, he was shuttled back and forth between the nursing station and RCMP cells. A guard at the RCMP detachment eventually noticed Wood had fallen and wasn't moving. He died on Jan. 3, 2010, of what was determined to be cranio-cerebral trauma, with pneumonia as a contributing factor.
Desmond Roberts, 43, died of a brain hemorrhage after he was put in an RCMP cell in La Ronge, Sask., in June 2015. Recommendations made at the inquest into his death included better monitoring of inmates and the development of a local detox facility.
An unidentified 43-year-old man died in September 2011 after being arrested by police in St. John's, N.L., on suspicion of being intoxicated. He was taken to the police station where he apparently went into medical distress, and officers could not revive him.
Brian Redmond, 63, was in Ontario Provincial Police cells in Kemptville twice in the first week of April 2015. The second time he died of complications from a perforated ulcer.
Kevin First Charger, 50, died in RCMP custody in Cardston, Alta., in February 2015. Police had received a call that an intoxicated man had fallen into a ditch. He was medically cleared and sent to the detachment for the night. The next morning, he was found dead in the cell. An autopsy determined he died of combined drug intoxication.
Samson Stephen, 47, was found by police in Timmins, Ont., in the ATM area of a bank one night in December 2012. Guards found Stephen having a seizure on the floor of the cell the next morning.
An unidentified 59-year-old man was found intoxicated by first responders in Ponoka, Alta., twice in September 2020, according to the province's police watchdog. He was taken to the hospital to be assessed on the first day. He was taken to a jail cell after he was found the next day. He fell and hit his head while in custody and died hours later.
An unidentified 36-year-old-man was taken into Edmonton police custody in February 2021. Guards taking a meal to the man the next morning found him unresponsive. Police say they found methamphetamine and carfentanil in the cell.
An unidentified 48-year-old man was placed in an Edmonton police cell in June 2020 to be held until he sobered up. He was found unconscious in the cell a couple of hours after and later died.
An unidentified 55-year-old man was "extremely intoxicated," when Barrie, Ont. police found him in September 2018, according to the Special Investigations Unit. Officers took the man to the police station before he went into medical distress. He was then taken to hospital.
Steven Scott, 30, was arrested by RCMP in Penticton, B.C., in August 2012. He complained of stomach pain while in a jail cell and asked to be taken to a hospital, but was denied. Guards didn't check on Scott properly and found him dead after he choked on his own vomit.
Terrance Ballantyne, 29, was from Beardy's and Okemasis' Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan. His mother told CBC News in an interview that her son was taken to the drunk tank several times throughout the final years of his life, but she still does not know exactly what happened to him in a Prince Albert police jail cell in May 2019. Saskatchewan's chief coroner says an inquest is expected to be held next year.
Corey Rogers, 41, was trying to visit his spouse and newborn daughter at a children's hospital in Halifax in June 2016, but he was denied entry because of his intoxication. Police arrested Rogers, took him to the police station and placed a spit hood over his head before putting him in a cell. He died after choking on his vomit.
Jocelyn George, 18, was taken into RCMP custody in Port Alberni, B.C., twice on the day before she died in June 2016. When she was released the first time, RCMP let her leave the detachment in bare feet, without trying to put her in the care of a family member. When she was taken into custody a second time, officers and guards didn't check on her as often as policy requires.
John (Dot Dot) Ettawakapow, 54, died in 2019 in a holding cell in The Pas, Man., after RCMP officers found him passed out in front of a local business. He was placed in the cell with two other intoxicated individuals. One of their legs rolled onto his neck, possibly suffocating him, an autopsy report found.
Laurent Kipling, 35, was "frequently" placed in a cell at the High Level, Alta., police station to sober up, according to an inquiry report. He was taken into RCMP custody twice on Sept. 12, 2010. There was no record in the logbook that guards physically checked on Kipling when he was in the cell the second time.
Gal Dahdona, 58, was taken into custody for public intoxication-related offences 58 times between 2005 and 2011. In April 2011, he was taken to an RCMP cell in Chateh, Alta., where he fell and hit his head. Concerns raised by an emergency medical responder about moving him after his head injury were dismissed during an inquiry into Dahdona's death.
Curtis Mills, 48, fell and hit his head in May 2011, while in the custody of Blood Tribe police in Alberta. He was assessed by an emergency health professional, but guards missed several checks throughout the night. He was found dead hours later.
Charlene Danais, 28, was a wife and mother to two children. She suffered from depression and had been drinking for three days when she was arrested in August 2011. Danais's common-law partner, Brent Providence, accused RCMP in Chateh, Alta., of not acting appropriately in handling Danais, saying they knew she ingested pills.
Jason Ratke, 48, was arrested in June 2020 at an Edmonton gas station. He was put in a jail cell. Police planned to release him without charges when he sobered up. An inquest into his death has not yet been held.
Wilfred Emile, 66, was arrested in Fort Smith, N.W.T., in October 2015. An inquest by the chief coroner called for better communication and co-operation between agencies that respond to incidents of public intoxication.
Beverly Elanik, 51, was taken into RCMP custody in Inuvik, N.W.T., in January 2016. She was taken for a medical assessment, and hospital staff said she was fit to be incarcerated. Elanik's mother remembered her daughter as "a happy-go-lucky person. She was so joyful."
Andre Boucher, 60, was staggering in a Saanich, B.C., neighbourhood when police encountered him in July 2016. Officers couldn't find anyone to care for him, so they put him in a jail cell where he fell and hit his head. Boucher was described by his sister, his doctor and the police as "a gentle human being."
Morris Ermine, 77, wasn't allowed into a Prince Albert, Sask., detox facility in July 2012 because of his "unruly behaviour." Recommendations from a coroner's inquest into his death included having detox facility staff note refused entry in writing, and a call for agencies to collaborate on alternative responses to addiction.
Walter McKenzie, 32, went to the emergency room in La Ronge, Sask., in September 2010, complaining about a cut over his eye. Nurses felt McKenzie didn't have a serious injury and called RCMP because he was intoxicated. McKenzie died in the jail cell after guards didn't check on him as often as policy required.