Death of man who was detained in Oxford House RCMP cells not caused by police, watchdog agency finds

Manitoba’s police watchdog agency has concluded that actions by Oxford House RCMP did not contribute to the death of a man who died in Winnipeg March 28, two days after being found unresponsive but breathing in the detachment’s cells.

The man who died was arrested on the morning of March 26 at the Oxford House nursing station for causing a disturbance while he was highly intoxicated. He was placed in one of the cells and, during a prisoner check at 5:48 p.m., was observed to be unresponsive but still breathing. He was transported back to the nursing station. Officers who spoke to the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU), which investigates all serious incidents involving on- or off-duty police in the province, said nursing station staff gave them no indication that the man’s condition was serious and said they would contact police if the man became violent.

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On March 30, RCMP received a phone call from the Bunibonibee Cree Nation chief informing them that the man had died March 28 at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. His cause of death was identified as bacterial meningitis, an outbreak of which was affecting the community at the time, according to nursing station staff.

The IIU did not find any evidence that any force was applied to the man when he was arrested or that he had injured himself while in the cell. The man’s medical records did show that he had been hit in the head with a hammer on March 11.

“In summary, this investigation has determined  that there is no causal connection between any act or omission by the RCMP and the subsequent death,” the IIU concluded.

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