No charges for Winnipeg officers in death of man Tasered during 2019 arrest: police watchdog

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba found that Winnipeg police officers were not at fault for the 2019 death of a man who was Tasered while being arrested, became unresponsive shortly after and was later pronounced dead upon arrival to the hospital.

Crown attorneys said evidence did not suggest excessive use of force, cited low likelihood of conviction

The man, 42, was Tasered when he became unco-operative during his arrest in August 2019, according to a report by the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba. He later became unresponsive and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Manitoba's police watchdog says charges won't be pursued against Winnipeg police officers in connection with the 2019 death of a man who was Tasered during his arrest.

The 42-year-old man's death was reported to the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba in August of 2019, according to a report released by the police oversight agency on Wednesday.

The IIU report says that shortly after 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 2, 2019, Winnipeg police officers were called about a domestic assault on Consol Avenue, in northeast Winnipeg. Police arrived at a residence shortly before 1 a.m., where they could see an assault happening in the house, according to the IIU report. Officers forced their way inside to help the victim.

When police entered the home, the man committing the assault ran from the house, the report says. Police chased him for about a block before finding him on a front lawn.

The man didn't co-operate during the arrest, police said, so officers used a Taser on him. They then called an ambulance. The man was handcuffed and continued struggling, but eventually became unresponsive.

Paramedics arrived and rushed the man to St. Boniface Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the report says.

IIU investigators interviewed five civilian witnesses, including the victim of the domestic assault, and five members of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service. They reviewed video from the Winnipeg Police Service's helicopter and various reports, recordings and notes, including a report on an autopsy of the man, the IIU's report says.

The autopsy report said the cause of the man's death was likely complications from a lack of oxygen to the brain due to an arrhythmia, which stemmed from excited delirium. Olanzapine — an antipsychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — was found in the 42-year-old's system, which may have triggered the arrhythmia, the IIU report says.

The autopsy report said that "physiologic stress of physical struggle and restraint" was also among the "significant conditions that contributed to the death," the IIU's report says.

The pathologist who wrote the autopsy report said any contribution of a Taser to the man's death could not be determined, according to the IIU report.

The unit's civilian director forwarded the investigation files to the Manitoba Prosecution Service for an opinion on whether criminal charges should be authorized against any of the police officers involved.

Prosecutors said that based on the evidence, there was reasonable doubt that excessive use of force occurred.

"Consequently, we are not satisfied that there is a reasonable likelikhood of conviction," prosecutors wrote to the IIU.

The prosecution service "will not authorize any Criminal Code charges" against the officers involved, "as there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction in this matter," the IIU report says.

The unit said as a result, its investigation is now closed.

There will, however, be an inquest into the man's death, as required under Manitoba's Fatality Inquiries Act, which says an inquiry must be held if a person dies in custody of a peace officer.