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ASIRT report clears Calgary police in 2020 death, but raised questions of EMS response

Calgary police have been cleared of any involvement during the in-custody death of a man back in October 2020.

A report from the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team’s (ASIRT) Executive Director, however questioned the actions of paramedics while the affected person was in their care.

On October 23, 2020, ASIRT was called in to investigate after a man died while in the custody of Calgary police. 

Police had earlier been dispatched to a 911 weapons complaint at the Marlborough CTrain station. When police arrived, the suspect was located and was in possession of an airsoft pistol, a slingshot and alcohol.

Background checks on the man showed that he was on probation as wasn’t able to consume or possess alcohol. The man was arrested (captured on body cam video) without a use of force, according to ASIRT’s report.

The man was taken to the Calgary Police Service Arrest Processing Section (APS) and was video recorded while in his cell. According to the report, the man was seen eating a sandwich he’d been provided. He was also seen holding something in the palm of his hand. He raised that hand to his mouth and apparently ingested something.

The man was then seen putting something in the toilet and then flushing it. The man laid on a bench and 10 minutes later his right arm fell from his chest. He remained unresponsive.

EMS called to the scene

When the man was reported unresponsive, EMS were called to the scene. While waiting for EMS, staff at the APS began providing emergency first aid.

EMS arrived and began medical care but were unable to revive the man, the ASIRT report read.

An autopsy done by the medical examiner showed the immediate cause of death to be ethanol, fentanyl and methamphetamine toxicity.

The entire incident at the APS took place in a two-hour window from 6:37 to 8:42 p.m.

The ASIRT report said all dealings with CPS officers and staff showed the man as being cooperative and in no medical distress.

No force had been applied to the man, the report read.

Therefore, the report concluded there was no reasonable grounds nor suspicion to believe any officers committed an offence.

The report did mention a collateral issue, however.

A medic within the APS raised concern with the way responding EMS attended to the man’s medical condition.

“He was of the opinion that they did not provide the level of treatment one would expect given how the (affected person) was presenting,” the report read.

ASIRT contacted the investigations unit with Alberta Health Services and provided them details of the concerns raised by the medic.

“It was left with AHS to determine whether to commence an investigation into the reported actions of the attending EMS members,” the report stated.

AHS responded Monday afternoon.

“As part of the ASIRT investigation, EMS received information earlier this year regarding the alleged conduct of two AHS paramedics and immediately conducted a full review and investigation into this call,” read an email response.

“There was found to be no evidence of any professional misconduct nor improper patient treatment on the part of the AHS paramedics.”

The investigation is now closed, AHS said.