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Burnaby RCMP cleared of wrongdoing in in-custody death

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The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIOBC) has cleared Burnaby RCMP officers involved in a case where a 27-year-old man died while in police custody in September.

Toxicology results found the man had potentially toxic levels of ecstasy and methamphetamines in his system when he died.

The case started with an incident just before 6 a.m. on Sept. 18 in the 4200-block of Cambridge Street in North Burnaby.

Residents of a home called 911 saying an unidentified male was breaking into their house, punching a window and slamming his head against the house in the process, said a report by the IIOBC. One of the residents said he had "maced" the suspect who then walked away down the street, followed by residents of the house.

When Burnaby RCMP officers arrived, they found the suspect, who was bleeding heavily, identified him as someone they had dealt with before, and called for an ambulance.

The first officers on the scene put the suspect into the back seat of the police car without handcuffs.

When two other officers arrived about 10 minutes later, they told IIOBC, the initial officers were interviewing the residents of the house at the curb to determine what happened. The witness officers checked on the condition of the suspect and found him unresponsive.

The officers called for a more urgent response from paramedics, removed the man from the car and began performing chest compressions on him before the ambulance arrived and its crews took over.

He was taken to hospital where he died the next day. The IIOBC did not release his name due to privacy concerns.

While the final autopsy report is not yet complete, preliminary autopsy results say the immediate cause of death was an anoxic brain injury resulting from a lack of blood and oxygen to the brain, the IIOBC report said.

There was no evidence of trauma, apart from multiple lacerations on both the man's hands, and no evidence of relevant internal or external injuries.

Toxicology results revealed ecstasy and methamphetamines in his blood at levels "where toxic effects have been reported."

"There is no reason to believe that any of the involved officers acted in an unreasonable or inappropriate fashion or that any police action was the cause of the affected person's medical distress or subsequent death," the IIOBC concluded.

While the first two responding declined to provide voluntary statements, the IIOBC's investigation included interviews with two witnessing officers, civilian witnesses, records of the original 911 call, medical records, police radio communications and video from a neighbourhood security camera.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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