Death investigated after Winnipeg Remand Centre denies epilepsy drugs to inmate
Rochelle Pranteau said she listened on phone while her husband, Bradley Errol Greene, had a seizure
A Winnipeg mother of three wants to know how her husband died after being in custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.
On May 1, Rochelle Pranteau was speaking over the phone with her 26-year-old husband, Bradley Errol Greene, when he went into an epileptic seizure and later died.
Greene was being detained for breaching a probation order not to consume alcohol. He was under the probation order for a mischief under $5,000 charge.
"He started telling me that he started having that feeling, and the feeling is when he's going to start seizing," said Pranteau, who heard her husband struggling at the end of a dangling telephone line.
"I tried talking to him, to comfort him, because usually in person I'm the one who can prevent it from happening. And I tried my hardest to stop it. I was like, get up, seek for help, and he didn't get the chance to."
At around 2 p.m., Pranteau said she listened through the phone line as Greene struggled for breath.
"I was just pushing buttons and everything, hoping someone would hear me so I could tell them, 'Let him finish his episode, he needs his meds, he's epileptic,'" said Pranteau.
Details of the incident are still under investigation, but Greene's cellmate, Stephen King, said he was one of the first to respond when someone said an inmate was having a seizure.
Shackled during seizure
"I ran up the stairs and took note — he was on his back, arms in the air, locked. I was the first one on the scene. I put him into the fetal position," said King.
At first, King held Greene by the shoulder and made sure his head was protected, but was told by guards to back away and return to his cell, he said.
"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.
The seizure stopped and King said he watched as the guards continued to restrain him.
"He was getting scared, you could hear him trying to make noises but his head was being held down forcefully."
At this point, King was moved away into a new cell and Greene was locked into a cell still in shackles and handcuffs.
CBC News spoke with several inmates at Winnipeg Remand who said Green was calling for help from the cell and then went silent.
"I heard a thump, I looked back out [of my cell] and another security guard came shortly after. They were having a conversation saying he broke into a second seizure, and then after a good 15 minutes, medical came," said Kyle Waite, an inmate next to Greene's cell.
Waite and several other inmates said that the guards and nursing staff were laughing at the situation. They also noted that paramedics performed CPR on Greene in the remand centre.
"The colour of him, he was white," said Peter Ogden, an inmate who saw Greene on a stretcher leaving the WRC.
"One paramedic was doing CPR on his chest, he had an oxygen mask … and I heard one of the paramedics say, 'He's gone,'" said Ogden, who noted the time was 3:05 p.m., more than an hour after Greene's first seizure.
That time of death contrasts with information given to Greene's next of kin by the chief medical examiner who said Greene died in hospital at 8:27 p.m. A third time of death was stated by a provincial spokesperson who said the inmate's death occurred "Sunday afternoon."
Greene went into custody April 29 and told Pranteau and King that he was denied medication for his epilepsy for three days.
He was fearful of having a seizure, said King.
"Errol was telling me — he was very afraid, and he was just informing me on how to handle him if he goes into seizure...I said, 'Don't worry man, I'm familiar with this.' I told him I'd make sure the guards and everybody knew what was going on," said King.
When asked about the protocol for dealing with inmates with epilepsy, a provincial spokesperson told CBC, "If the offender is on medication and it can be verified, generally it is continued. If the medication cannot be verified through community health care providers or if there are any potential issues, the offender is booked to see the institutional physician."
Greene was epileptic and prescribed daily medication to prevent seizures. The amount of medication Greene was prescribed is typical of someone with epilepsy and is required three times per day, said Dr. Alexei Yankovsky, a neurologist and epileptologist at Health Science Centre.
"Even missing one dose may activate seizures, sometimes repetitive seizures," said Yankovsky.
Missed medication can cause grand mal, or tonic-clonic seizures, where the person's whole body is shaking, and it may lead to status epilepticus, a life-threatening neurological disorder that occurs when an epileptic seizure lasts too long, according to Yankovsky.
"Definitely if it's the first seizure of the patient an ambulance should be called in any situation," said Yankowsky who added emergency services may not be required if a patient is known to suffer from epileptic seizures, but a doctor should be consulted.
Remembered as a loving father
Pranteau was informed by the chief medical officer on her husband's case that Greene was admitted to emergency at Health Science Centre at 3:35 p.m., and died of internal bleeding in the intensive care unit at 8:27 p.m.
The case is under investigation and autopsy results are expected to take three to four months, according to the information provided to Pranteau.
Greene was laid to rest on Friday by Pranteau, their three children and a baby on the way.
"He was a loving father," recalled Pranteau, who said her grief is motivation for finding out what happened to Greene between their last conversation Sunday afternoon and the phone call informing her of his death that night.
"I want to know everything. Every single detail … I want to know why he passed away," said Pranteau, who plans to seek legal help.
"If he died in jail because those guards neglected him and didn't want to help him the way they were supposed to, he deserves justice."