Provincial watchdog clears Winnipeg police in death of man who died at hospital after arrest

Winnipeg police officers were not responsible for the death of a man who fell unconscious while being arrested in 2019, the Independent Investigative Unit has decided.

Causes of death included cardiac arrest coupled with delirium from drugs

Police officers stands with his back to camera with the word "police" on the back of their vest visible
Winnipeg police performed CPR on the stricken man, but he couldn't be revived. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Winnipeg police officers were not responsible for the death of a man who had hit his head in a fall and was experiencing delusions when they arrived to take him to hospital, the provincial police watchdog has decided.

The civilian director of  the Independent Investigative Unit (IIU) announced Wednesday that there is no evidence to support a finding that either action or inaction by police officers contributed in any way to the man's death,.

On Sept. 23, 2019, police were responding to a complaint about a naked man yelling loudly and incoherently along the Assiniboine River near Kennedy Street, the IIU said in a final report released on Wednesday.

Witnesses reported seeing the man fall and hit his head before police arrived, the report said.

When officers arrived, the man was lying on his back and yelling. He wouldn't respond to officers and seemed as though he was going to go into the river.

Police were able to restrain him to prevent him from going in, but he became unconscious. Officers provided CPR and he was taken to hospital where he died a week later.

An autopsy showed the man suffered cardiac arrest, which kept blood from flowing to his brain, as well as excited delirium caused by methamphetamine or cocaine. 

No witnesses reported seeing any indication that the male had been punched, kicked or assaulted in any way by the officers during the incident, the investigative unit said.

Because the matter concerned the death of a person that might have resulted from the actions of one or more police officers, the police watchdog assumed responsibility for the investigation.

The investigators watched Air-1 video recordings, reviewed medical records from both Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and the hospital, and went over the autopsy and toxicology report.

Flooding prevented investigators from examining the scene of the incident, so they examined pictures that had been taken and looked for video surveillance in the area.

The report on the incident was delayed because the original investigator resigned from the IIU last year and the case reassigned.