A Saskatchewan mother whose son died in a police holding cell after she says he was mistaken for being drunk says it has been a long three years waiting for a public inquiry.
The Saskatchewan government has announced that an inquest into the death of Brandon Daniels will begin this month.
Daniels, 19, was found dead in his cell at the Saskatoon Police Service Detention Centre on July 3, 2010.
“It’s been terrible. It’s really changed our lives. We sit and wait for the phone to ring. We have no life, really,” Daniels’ mother, Sherry Bird, said about the death of her son and how the delay for an inquiry has affected her family.
Daniels was from the Mistawasis First Nation and Bird said he had gone to Saskatoon to shop and became separated from his family.
Police said in a news release at the time that Daniels was arrested because he appeared to be intoxicated.
But Bird said her son was taking prescribed medication for a suspected mental illness and took a large dose of acetaminophen after getting lost.
Bird said the toxicology report found there was no alcohol or drugs in Daniels’ system, other than the prescribed medication and acetaminophen.
She said her family phoned 911 to report that Daniels was missing but no one seemed to know that he’d been picked up by police.
“They came up with excuses. Paperwork wasn’t filed, they didn’t know who they had in the cell,” Bird said.
“He ended up in the cells and they just left him there for 12 hours until his heart stopped,” she continued.
“They said that they ... put him in the recovery position and checked on him every 15 minutes.”
“I think it was just neglect. They assumed he was drunk and just left him.”
Noel Busse, a spokesman for the province’s justice department, said the cause of Daniels’ death isn’t being released now, but will be made public at the inquiry.
The Coroners Act in Saskatchewan requires an inquest into any death of an inmate of a jail or correctional facility unless the coroner is satisfied the death was due entirely to natural causes and was not preventable.
Bird said officials told her at the time of her son’s death there would be an inquiry within a year.
Busse said there were delays with the police review of the incident and he said changes have been made with the review process to prevent similar delays with future cases.
Saskatoon police said in their news release in 2010 that the RCMP was appointed to oversee the investigation.
The inquest will run Oct. 28 through Nov. 1 with coroner Alma Wiebe presiding.
Bird said she has been granted standing at the inquiry.
“I’ve got nine children and this is the first close loss we’ve had except for elders in our family. It blew everybody away,” she said.