Nova Scotia

Mentally ill man's fatal balcony fall questioned by family

The parents of a mentally ill man who died last week in Halifax after officers broke into his apartment are concerned the police response may have contributed to his death.

Family of Mohammed Eshaq says police could have done things differently to prevent his death

Mohammed Eshaq, 27, died when he fell from his 10th-floor apartment while at large from the Nova Scotia Hospital. (Courtesy of Gamal Bineshaq)

The parents of a mentally ill man who died last week in Halifax after officers broke into his apartment are concerned the police response may have contributed to his death.

Mohammed Eshaq fell from the 10th floor of his south-end Halifax apartment on Feb. 3 while at large from the Nova Scotia Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Dartmouth. He later died from his injuries.

Eshaq's family said Feb. 3 was the third time the 27-year-old had barricaded himself in his apartment in less than three weeks.

Twice before, police and family members talked him out peacefully. His family wants to know why the third incident ended in tragedy.

According to Eshaq's family, he had cognitive delays that made him seem much younger. He also struggled with schizophrenia.

Gamal Bineshaq, Eshaq's father, said worsening mental illness lead Eshaq to barricade himself inside his apartment twice in late January.

"The police was so smart. When she knocked the door, no response, she called us. 'You are Mohammed's father?' I said, 'Yes,'" Bineshaq recalled.

"She said, 'I am a police officer. I am at Mohammed's building. I'm knocking on the door, he's not opening. Can you come?' I said, 'Yes I am coming.'"

The first incident happened on Jan. 16, the second on Jan. 21. Both times, talking convinced Eshaq to come away peacefully.

Ran away on smoke pass

His parents decided to move him into Simpson Landing at the Nova Scotia Hospital. Simpson Landing is a community living facility for people living with mental illness.

But last week, Eshaq ran away while on a 15-minute smoke pass. He went to his parents' house.

Munira Bobsaid and Gamal Bineshaq say if police had handled things differently, their son may still be alive. (CBC )

"I told Mohammed, 'Cool down, sit down.' He said, 'No, today I want to stay here," said Munira Bobsaid, Eshaq's mother.

Eventually, Eshaq agreed to return to Simpson Landing but told his family he wanted to pick up some clothes and an electric razor from his old apartment in south-end Halifax. Once inside, Eshaq refused to leave.

"He said, 'No Mum, I can't go.'  I said, 'Why? Mohammed, you should come with me together to the hospital. He said, 'No Mum, I'll stay here,'" said Bobsaid.

Bobsaid went home and informed the Nova Scotia Hospital. It was the last time she saw her son alive.

Less than two hours later, a police officer was at her door, asking her to go to the hospital.

"Then doctors come all together, come into the room. And they tell us Mohammed died," said Bobsaid.

'They shouldn't have pushed so hard'

The family questions how police handled the final encounter with their son.

Bineshaq believes his son was frightened by the loud knocking on the door and the family wonders why his family or the Mobile Mental Health Crisis Team wasn't called.

"They should have called us, the should have done something," said Bineshaq.

"They shouldn’t have pushed so hard."

Eshaq's family does not know the exact circumstances surrounding what happened that afternoon, but both parents are sure their son was not suicidal.

Bobsaid and Bineshaq said they are "paying a high cost for this error" and they don't want to see another family go through the same thing.

A press release from the Serious Incident Response Team said officers forced their way into a barricaded apartment and that several minutes later a man fell from the balcony.

Neither Halifax Regional Police nor SIRT will comment on the incident while the investigation is underway. The Capital District Health Authority, which runs the Nova Scotia Hospital, said an internal review is taking place.


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