Manitoba

What happened to Errol Greene? Autopsy results reveal new info on inmate death

Autopsy results confirm what eyewitnesses told CBC News in May: Errol Greene was handcuffed, shackled and held face-down during an epileptic seizure that eventually led to his death while in custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre. Greene's wife, Rochelle Pranteau, renews her call for an inquest.

Errol Greene was cuffed, shackled and restrained on his stomach during epileptic seizure

Errol Greene holds two of his four children. His son Errol Junior was born five months after his death. (Submitted by Rochelle Pranteau)

Eyewitness accounts of the death of Errol Greene are now confirmed by an autopsy report.

CBC News obtained a copy of the detailed report, dated Oct. 13, last week. It points to concerns around how the 26-year-old's epileptic seizure was handled by corrections officers, and proves he was not administered his seizure-controlling medication while in custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Greene's wife, Rochelle Pranteau, is still sifting through the pages of medical jargon trying to make sense of it all.

"I can't imagine what he went through, and I don't know what to tell our kids," said Pranteau, who just gave birth to her and Errol's fourth child, Errol Junior.

Concern over the circumstances of Greene's death emerged early on from those who witnessed the medical emergency in person and over the phone. They questioned the emergency response to Greene's seizure and the possibility that the Winnipeg Remand Centre denied access to valproic acid, the seizure-controlling medication for which Greene was prescribed.

Pranteau was speaking with Greene over the phone when he suffered the first of two seizures that eventually led to his death. At the time, Greene told Pranteau that he repeatedly asked for his medication but was ignored.

In the autopsy report, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner states that Greene had the first of two seizures at 1:52 p.m. on May 1. At that point he was handcuffed, shackled and held face down before being taken to his cell.

A second seizure occurred about 45 minutes later inside Greene's cell, at which point an ambulance was called. It took another 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, at which point paramedics attempted to resuscitate Greene.

According to several witnesses, Greene was unresponsive.

"I heard audibly that the paramedics called his time of death at 15:05 on Sunday afternoon and that's the only time stamp I heard," said Stephen King, Greene's cell-mate.

Once at the Health Sciences Centre Emergency Department, Greene was given several rounds of epinephrine, the drug used to resuscitate people. At that point, Greene regained a pulse, but the autopsy shows that his heart had stopped beating for 45 minutes prior to the epinephrine administration.

A subsequent scan of the brain showed severe damage and he remained comatose until his death at 8:27 p.m. that evening.

Cause of death

According to the autopsy report, the immediate cause of death is "acute hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy," which simply stated means a sudden lack of oxygen to the brain. 

Greene was restrained during his seizure, and according to his autopsy report, physical restraint could have contributed to his death.

The use of extreme restraint was reported by inmates on the scene early on in a CBC News' investigation.

"I watched the guards handcuff him, shackle him, throw him on his stomach. They held down his head with two hands and he was shaking forcefully," said King during an interview with CBC News in May.

According to the autopsy report, Greene had "a sudden, witnessed seizure following which he began thrashing about and becoming violently aggressive, requiring him to be restrained. He was cuffed and shackled in the prone position until he calmed down and allowed to return to his cell. A short time later he had another seizure, at which time he was again restrained."

Medication denied

Rochelle Pranteau pictured with her husband, Errol Greene. Pranteau is renewing calls for an inquest into her husband's death. (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

Pranteau said her husband was denied medication while in custody, which could explain the low levels of valproic acid in Greene's body. According to the pathologist's section of Greene's autopsy report, "toxicologic analysis of antemortem plasma taken prior to his death revealed a subtherapeutic level of valproic acid, which would have made him susceptible to having a seizure."

Greene's concerns about medication would be the last words Pranteau would hear from her husband, but the conversation that day started on a much more positive note.

"I was telling him that I needed him more than ever for baby, and he was ready to change his life around for the better, for his family. And I can tell he was sincere and ready this time. But because of what happened I wasn't able to see it," said Pranteau.

Inquest pending

Pranteau wants an inquest into her husband's death.

Manitoba Corrections refuses to comment on the Winnipeg Remand Centre's response to Greene's medical emergency and its failure to administer prescription medications. Manitoba Corrections would only confirm that the department completed an internal review of the circumstances leading up to the death of an inmate on May 1, 2016.

An inquest into Greene's death is in the hands of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The office confirmed with CBC News that the decision to call an inquest is pending.

Two other inmates have died at the Winnipeg Remand Centre in the past two weeks.

One died on Oct. 13; the other died Tuesday.

A protest is planned Wednesday outside the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Another inmate died at the Winnipeg Remand Centre on Tuesday

Corrections

  • Errol Greene died at 8:27 p.m., not 10:27 p.m., the time in an earlier version of this story.
    Oct 26, 2016 9:17 AM CT

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