Manitoba RCMP not at fault for man's death after arrest at nursing station: police watchdog

A man who died days after being arrested and detained by RCMP in Oxford House, Man. in March was not the fault of the police, an investigation by Manitoba's police watchdog has concluded.

Man was checked on regularly while in custody, no sign of use of force or injury, says IIU

A medical examiner's report showed the death of a 31-year-old man in March, days after being arrested by RCMP, was due to natural causes and complications from bacterial meningitis and chronic alcohol abuse, the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba says. (Shannon VanRaes/Reuters)

RCMP were not at fault for the death of a man earlier this year, days after he was arrested and detained in northern Manitoba, an investigation by the province's police watchdog has concluded.

Mounties in Bunibonibee Cree Nation — also known as Oxford House, a First Nation about 580 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg — got a call on the morning of March 26 about a 31-year-old man who was causing a disturbance at the local nursing station, the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba says in a report released Wednesday.

Two officers responded and found the man sitting in a wheelchair, highly intoxicated, the IIU said. They arrested him for causing a disturbance, then put him in a cell at the Oxford House RCMP detachment.

Officers conducted regular checks on the man and found he was moving and snoring, according to the report.

About eight hours after his arrest, officers went into the man's cell to release him, and found he was breathing but unresponsive, the IIU said, so they took him back to the nursing station.

The nursing station staff did not give any indication that the man's condition was serious at that point, the report says.

But on March 30, the band chief told RCMP that the man had been taken to Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre, where he died on March 28.

Because the man's death came after an interaction with police, the IIU — which is mandated to investigate all serious incidents involving police in Manitoba — launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Investigators reviewed officers' notes, various reports, surveillance footage, the cell guard log book and prisoner forms.  Evidence showed the man was checked on regularly while in custody, and there was no evidence of use of force or injury during the arrest, the IIU said.

A post-mortem investigation conducted by the medical examiner showed the man's death was from natural causes and complications with bacterial meningitis and chronic alcohol abuse, according to the IIU.

"There is no evidence or indication that any act or omission by the RCMP officers who dealt with [the man] caused or contributed to his death," the investigation unit's report says, adding its investigation is now closed.

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