Prince George family looks for answers after man dies in police custody

A man who was hospitalized after being arrested by Prince George RCMP has died, leaving behind a large family in grief. 

'Letting him go was really hard,' says sister who was present when Everett Patrick died 

An undated photo of Everett Patrick who died on Monday, April 20 after being arrested by Prince George RCMP. (Family handout)

A man who was hospitalized after being arrested by RCMP in Prince George, B.C., has died, leaving behind a large family in grief. 

Everett Patrick was taken off life support on Friday and died early Monday morning at the Prince George hospital, according to his sister Miranda Thomas. 

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C., which is responsible for investigating police-related incidents of death or serious harm, would not confirm Patrick's identity but said its team is investigating to determine what role, if any, the RCMP's actions or inaction may have played in his death.

Patrick was hospitalized on April 12 after being taken into police custody and went into "medical distress," according details from the police watchdog organization. 

Thomas said the grief of the situation has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant most family members couldn't be in hospital with him during his final days. 

She said many of her final hours at the hospital were spent video-calling family so they could see and talk to Patrick. 

"Letting him go was really hard," she said. 

Everett Patrick, a member of the Lake Babine Nation, was 42. 

Brought to hospital twice on the day of his arrest

Patrick was arrested on the morning of Sunday, April 12, after police responded to a report of a commercial alarm that had gone off at a business in downtown Prince George. 

Police said that when officers arrived, the male suspect tried to run away. Police said the suspect ran back into the business and out of safety concerns they called in the Emergency Response Team. 

Police said they arrested the man hours later, with help from a police dog team. 

In a news release about the arrest, RCMP said the man was taken to hospital to be treated for minor wounds before being taken back to the detachment. 

The Prince George RCMP detachment. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Thomas said her understanding was that Patrick was treated for injuries from the police dogs involved in his arrest. 

According to the Independent Investigations Office, hours after he was taken back to the detachment "the male went into medical distress and was transported to hospital where he was found to be suffering from serious injury." 

Thomas said when the family was first told about Patrick being taken to hospital "they said he was having a seizure in the jail cell." 

She said the doctors told the family a CT scan revealed Patrick had bleeding in his brain requiring emergency surgery and that he wasn't expected to survive. 

Thomas said the family is suspicious of what took place between Patrick and the RCMP and want answers about how he ended up in hospital for the second time that day. 

Investigator cautions against making assumptions

Ron McDonald, the Independent Investigations Office chief director, said "we will of course seek all evidence that we have."

But he cautioned against making assumptions about what led to Patrick's death, adding that investigators don't yet have all the facts of the case. 

An autopsy is expected to take place on Thursday.

An undated photo of Everett Patrick, who was a member of the Lake Babine Nation. (Family handout)

McDonald said in addition to what they can learn through the autopsy, "in any custody situation we typically have access to video that will show us almost every minute once they're brought into a detention facility." 

Anyone with information that might be relevant to their investigation is encouraged to phone the office's witness line. 

With Patrick's death being publicized in connection with a police incident, the family said they want people to know that he was someone who lived a difficult life but that he was also a person who was quick to help others and loved spending time with his family. 

Thomas said when they were children, being raised by their grandmother, Patrick was a happy-go-lucky kid and that he grew up to be someone who played a protective role in her life, even as he struggled with addictions and became involved in the criminal justice system. 

"He was always there for family," she said.