Officers cleared in death of man following arrest by Victoria police

Victoria police officers did not use any force against a man who died last month in hospital after being arrested and held in VicPD cells, according to the province’s police watchdog.

Victoria police told the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. that officers responded to a report of a man causing a disturbance in the 600-block of Douglas Street, near Beacon Hill Park, around 1:45 a.m. on Nov. 20. The man was arrested, cleared by Emergency Health Services and taken to the detachment cells.

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A couple of hours later, officers noticed the man had fallen from his bed and appeared to be unwell. They called Emergency Health Services, who transported the man to hospital where it was discovered he was suffering from several serious pre-existing medical conditions. He was not injured in the fall from his bed, according to the IIO report.

The man died in hospital the following day. His death was the result of his long-term health conditions, the IIO said.

The IIO’s chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald reviewed video footage, medical information, and a statement from an independent civilian witness and determined that officers acted appropriately.

“There are no reasonable grounds to consider that the actions or inactions of any officer played a role in the man’s death,” MacDonald wrote in his report.

“The speed of officers’ response to the man’s apparent distress and decision to call EHS immediately were appropriate and commendable under the circumstances, although it is unfortunate that those timely actions were unable to prevent the man’s death.”

The IIO also concluded an investigation into an incident in Nanaimo last year in which a man driving a stolen vehicle was pulled from the car by officers after he refused to exit on his own.

On Sept. 18, 2019, an officer noticed a man driving a stolen vehicle on Highview Terrace in Nanaimo. Two nearby officers used their police cruisers to block the road ahead, cutting the man off. When he would not get out of the vehicle on his own, officers pulled him out, took him to the ground and placed him in handcuffs.

The man was injured, but his injuries do not meet the threshold of “serious harm” as defined by the Police Act, the IIO report said. The watchdog was notified of the incident in July.

MacDonald did not find evidence that any officer committed an offence during the arrest after reviewing detachment CCTV, medical information, a statement from the affected person and statements from two independent civilian witnesses.

The IIO is an independent civilian oversight agency that investigates officer-related incidents that result in serious harm or death, whether or not there’s an allegation of wrongdoing.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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