Man arrested for public intoxication found dead in Halifax jail cell
An autopsy to confirm the 41-year-old Spryfield man's cause of death was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
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The province’s Serious Incident Response Team has started an investigation into the death of a man in Halifax Regional Police custody early Thursday morning.
A news release from SiRT says a 41-year-old man from Spryfield was found unresponsive in a cell at police headquarters on Gottingen Street at 1:45 a.m. Paramedics arrived shortly after, but were unable to resuscitate the man.
The release says the man was arrested under the Liquor Control Act outside the IWK Health Centre on University Avenue in Halifax just after 10:30 p.m., where police had received an "unwanted male call."
An autopsy was scheduled to be conducted on Thursday, and no other details were available about the man’s identity.
SiRT director Ron MacDonald told Metro on Thursday that the investigation would take time, and this one will involve the Medical Examiner’s office, “which often takes months.”
“Our goal is to finish it as quickly as we can,” he said.
SiRT finished an investigation in January after a similar incident in 2013, when a man died in a cell at police headquarters. The resulting report took more than two years to complete as SIRT had to obtain opinions from the Medical Examiner, two neurologists, and the Public Prosecution Service, MacDonald said at the time.
“There’s always similarities between investigations, but we always look at every investigation separately, although having done them before always gives us experience and expertise doing the next one,” MacDonald said.
That investigation found there was no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the officer working that night, but that police policies that could’ve prevented the death were not followed.
Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. Dianne Woodworth referred all specific questions about the matter to SiRT on Thursday, and said intoxicated people are typically arrested for their own protection.
“If they’re intoxicated in a public place, and often times they are a risk to themselves or others, and if they’re not with a sober person, then it’s our responsibility to make sure they don’t become a victim or get involved in some sort of altercation,” she said.
“In general, they are put into cells after they’re processed, and they’re checked every 15 minutes.”