Grenada PM promises probe into Toronto man's death

Grenada's prime minister is promising a full investigation into the death of a Toronto man who was allegedly beaten by police.

Oscar Bartholomew allegedly beaten by police

Oscar Bartholomew, seen in this undated photo, died Tuesday in Grenada. It is alleged he was beaten by police. (Courtesy Bartholomew family)

Grenada's Prime Minister Tillman Thomas says there will be a full investigation into the death of a Toronto man who was allegedly beaten by police.

The prime minister is seeking information about the circumstances surrounding the death on Tuesday of 39-year-old Oscar Bartholomew, a spokesman said.

Richard Simon, press secretary to the prime minister, said in a telephone interview with CBC News that "the prime minister certainly wants to ensure that no stone is left unturned in getting to the bottom of this and ensuring that he knows what the facts are before making a public statement."

Bartholomew, who was originally from Grenada, had returned to the Caribbean island to celebrate the Christmas holidays with family and friends.

According to media reports, Bartholomew had hugged a female police officer whom he mistook for an old friend.

'It is not something that we feel happy about.'—Police Supt. Dunbar Belfon

Bartholomew "hugged and lifted her off the ground before recognizing that it was a case of mistaken identity. His actions were viewed as assault on a police officer," Grenada Broadcast reported on its website.

"He was then apprehended and beaten by police, before succumbing to his injuries at the General Hospital," the media outlet reported.

Bartholomew, along with his wife Dolette and a cousin, had stopped at the St. David's police station on Monday afternoon because his wife needed to use the bathroom, his aunt Josephine de Souza said in a telephone interview.

Police said Bartholomew was arrested after assaulting an officer.

Dunbar Belfon, superintendent of the Royal Grenada Police Force, said the female officer was in uniform at the time she came into contact with Bartholomew.

Belfon said Bartholomew was taken into custody after the altercation and eventually transferred to hospital.

De Souza and one of Bartholomew's cousins, Shem Pierre, accused police of leaving Bartholomew bleeding in his cell for at least three hours before calling an ambulance at the insistence of his wife.

According to doctors, a blood vessel in his brain had burst, causing his death early Tuesday, Pierre said in a separate telephone interview.

Visiting family

Bartholomew, who had permanent resident status in Canada, and his Canadian wife had arrived in Grenada on Friday to visit family for the holidays, Pierre said.

Attorney Derick Sylvester, who is representing the family, said relatives were giving statements to police Wednesday.

"We're putting things in place," Sylvester said, adding that the family is trying to hire a pathologist from the nearby island of Trinidad to conduct an independent autopsy.

He said the preliminary results of a government-ordered autopsy were expected late Wednesday.

"It is very unfortunate and senior officers have actually visited the relatives and the next of kin of the deceased to officially inform them of the unfortunate incident. We have also extended our deepest condolences on the behalf of the commissioner and the force. So it is not something that we feel happy about," Supt. Dunbar Belfon told CBC News.

Police have declined any further comment and said they would issue a statement later.

Simon confirmed that the prime minister had visited the Bartholomew family to extend his condolences and "assured them that whatever resources are necessary for a full and transparent process will be given."

Police have faced other brutality allegations

George Grant of Grenada Broadcast told CBC News on Wednesday that there have been several allegations cases of police brutality against the RGPF in the past few years. 

At least three cases of police brutality were reported in 2011.

Grant said police launch investigations into the charges, but never reveal the outcomes. 

The prime minister's office said this investigation will be thorough and complete.

The Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General's Office will direct the investigation, along with the RGPF. The addition of the outside investigators "will add some credence" to the investigation, Simon said.

"The whole accountability question will be raised here — and this is not a prime minister who will shy away from that," Simon said.

The press secretary said that the prime minister would want to make sure that "once the investigation is completed ... those facts are shared." 

Bartholomew lived in Toronto for about 20 years.

In Ottawa, a Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the department is "aware of reports of the death of a permanent resident of Canada in Grenada. Our thoughts and condolences are with those affected by this tragedy."

With files from The Associated Press