News / Canada

RCMP re-open investigation into the death of pepper sprayed inmate

"As a result of additional information coming to the attention of the RCMP in connection with this Matthew Hines matter, the file is being re-examined," said but RCMP spokesman Const. Hans Ouellette.

The RCMP has reopened the investigation into the death of Matthew Ryan Hines.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Wendy Gillis

The RCMP has reopened the investigation into the death of Matthew Ryan Hines.

FREDERICTON — The RCMP has reopened the investigation of the death of an inmate who was pepper sprayed repeatedly in the face last year at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick.

Last month, police said their investigation into the death of Matthew Hines was closed, but RCMP spokesman Const. Hans Ouellette said Friday new information has emerged.

"As a result of additional information coming to the attention of the RCMP in connection with this Matthew Hines matter, the file is being re-examined," Ouellette said Friday.

He would not give any details about the new information or the nature of the investigation.

Correctional Services Canada also confirmed Friday that one person has been fired and three others disciplined in connection with the death.  

Matthew Hines died on March 27, 2015 after he was pepper sprayed for refusing to return to his cell.

A three-person panel said the use of force was inappropriate, noting that Hines was "under sufficient control of the staff" at the time of the repeated spraying.

The report prepared for Correctional Service Canada says correctional officers used five blasts of pepper spray, including four administered to Hines' face just seconds apart around 10:23 p.m. on May 26, after the 33-year-old inmate refused to return to his cell.

The report, provided to The Canadian Press by Hines' family, also says that when Hines was taken to a shower to remove the pepper spray, he fell backwards while still handcuffed and with his shirt over his head. As an officer tried to remove Hines' shirt the inmate said, "Please I'm begging you," and kicked with his right leg.

It says Hines had a seizure at 10:29 p.m. and he was taken to the prison health wing where the nurse "appeared to have conducted no assessments (vital signs, neuro-vitals, oxygen saturation) nor provided any treatment." He was transported to hospital in Moncton and died just after midnight.

In a statement issued Friday, Lori Halfper, a senior communications adviser for Correctional Service Canada, said a number of actions have already been taken in response to the report.

"Wardens are working with their front-line staff and managers to ensure they are ready and trained and are clear on their roles, responsibilities and expectations to effectively respond and manage security incidents, including medical distress. Direction on the need to comply with First Aid and CPR procedures has been reinforced with staff," she wrote.

Halfper said staff have received more robust first aid training and a new electronic medical record system will improve how medical information is shared.

"A memo went out to all healthcare staff about Mr. Hines' tragic death and outlined areas for improvement and reminding the staff of their obligation to meet professional standards and requirements," she wrote.

The details of the struggle with guards and a lack of medical attention have been criticized by Hines's siblings, who say they were initially given scant and inaccurate information about how their brother died.

Julie Kirkpatrick, a lawyer for the Hines family, said the fact they are starting to get some answers provides some relief. She said they still want a coroner's inquest to be called.

"They believe the information that has come to light recently about Matthew's death is of great concern to them and should be of great concern to the public. They believe that a public process needs to happen," Kirkpatrick said.

A spokesman for the department of Public Safety said that as of Friday afternoon, nothing had changed and the Coroner's office was still investigating.

Halfper said the CSC supports any investigation into the incident.

"We are supporting both the coroner's inquest and police investigation and will allow those processes to unfold. There will likely be more that we can learn from the results of those processes," she said.