No charges for Selkirk RCMP officers after man dies in custody: police watchdog

Manitoba’s police watchdog has found no wrongdoing on the part of Selkirk RCMP officers after a 54-year-old man died in their custody last year, saying a pathologist determined the man had potentially deadly levels of cocaine in his system.

In the early hours of Dec. 30, 2019, officers responded to the man’s residence after he called them. He claimed that two unknown people were inside his house and were shooting arrows at the home, according to a report released Tuesday by the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba.

He also said he had been poisoned by needles on his floor.

“RCMP members attended and determined the complaint to be unfounded, finding the [man] to be intoxicated on cocaine, hysterical, rambling and not making sense,” Zane Tessler, the investigation unit’s civilian director, wrote in his report

The man was arrested under the Mental Health Act and taken to the Selkirk RCMP detachment. When officers opened the door to their vehicle, they found the man unresponsive and in medical distress. 

They tried performing CPR, but couldn’t revive the man, who was pronounced dead. 

Since the death occurred while the man was in police custody, the IIU — which is mandated to investigate all serious incidents involving Manitoba police — opened an investigation. 

One of the civilian witnesses interviewed as part of the investigation was the man’s son, who said the man had a history of making erratic phone calls while binging on cocaine. 

A pathologist’s report found the man had “toxic to lethal” amounts of cocaine and benzoylecgonine in his blood, and attributed the death to cocaine toxicity, with an enlarged heart being a contributing factor.

Investigators found no action of the officers contributed to the man’s death. The investigation is now closed.