Manitoba

Remand centre inmate who died after struggle was a 'friendly giant'

The family of a father of two who died after a struggle at Winnipeg's remand centre wants answers about the circumstances of his death.

Russell Spence died Oct. 12 after struggle at the Winnipeg Remand Centre

Russell Spence died after a 'struggle' during processing at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

The family of a father of two who died after a struggle at Winnipeg's remand centre wants answers about the circumstances of his death.

Russell Spence, 31, of Winnipeg died Oct. 12 after he was involved in an altercation during processing at the centre. He became unresponsive, then later died in hospital, according to the province's Independent Investigative Unit.

"Russell was a friendly giant," said Kevin Bittern, who is Spence's older brother. "All his friends and everyone knew he would not hurt anybody, or start anything. I find this very suspicious about his death."

Spence was the third person this year to die in Winnipeg Remand Centre custody. A fourth inmate in the custody of the centre died in hospital on Tuesday.
Russell Spence, 31, of Winnipeg died Oct. 12 after he was involved in an altercation during processing at the centre. He became unresponsive, then later died in hospital, according to the province's Independent Investigative Unit. 1:09

Officials don't release the identities of inmates due to privacy reasons. CBC News learned on Wednesday that Spence was the third inmate in the centre's custody to die.

The IIU is investigating because the struggle was with a police officer or a corrections officer, but it wouldn't specify which one. Winnipeg Police Service would not comment.

Bittern said he's angry that his family hasn't been told much about his brother's death and doesn't believe Spence was resisting arrest since he had previous experience dealing with cops.

Spence had a long criminal record, with convictions for theft and possessing property obtained by crime, according to court documents. He was last picked up for a weapons offence and was also charged for failing to comply with his probation order.

At the time of his arrest, he was on a two-year supervised probation for a June conviction. 

Bittern said he's trying to piece together his brother's final moments and track down the last people who saw his brother alive. The family is also looking for a lawyer.

About the Author

Jillian Taylor

CBC Reporter

Jillian Taylor has been with CBC Manitoba since 2012 and has been reporting for a decade. She was born and raised in Manitoba and is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. In 2014, she was awarded the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's travel bursary, which took her to Australia to work with Indigenous journalists. Find her on Twitter: @JillianLTaylor