Howard Hyde looked "scared" and tried to back away as police went to cut the drawstring on his shorts, recalled the officer who tasered the mentally ill man during a fracas that broke out seconds later.
The altercation at police headquarters erupted as officers were trying to book the Dartmouth man, who was arrested in November of 2007 for allegedly assaulting his wife. The 45-year-old musician, who was off his schizophrenia medication, was tasered repeatedly, stopped breathing and had to be revived in a hallway.
Mr. Hyde was checked in hospital and died the next day in a local jail. An inquiry is examining the circumstances surrounding his death Halifax Regional Police Special Constable Gregory McCormick, the booking officer that night, testified that Mr. Hyde's processing had been routine. The prisoner had been pacing in a holding cell but exhibited no behaviour strange enough for him to note it in his paperwork. As did the constable who arrested Mr. Hyde, this officer testified he did not know the prisoner was mentally ill. Tensions rose after someone noticed that Mr. Hyde's shorts had a drawstring which was knotted and needed to be cut.
Special Constable McCormick said he approached the prisoner with a bladed utility tool. "The look on his face, to me it was the look of scared," he testified. "We reassured him we were only cutting out the lace."
The officer did not specify the exact words that reassurance included. Audio from a surveillance recording during this time, which happened off camera, includes a passage that sounds like "we're just going to cut one of those balls off."
The recording then picks up voices being raised. Seconds later Mr. Hyde comes hurtling into the camera's field of vision, two officers tying to get him down and restrain him.
"He was flailing his arms and legs," Special Constable McCormick said. "I made the decision to get the taser."
The officer said that the confined space of the booking area made chemical spray and batons unsuitable. He decided against kicking Mr. Hyde's legs, the only part of him visible during his struggle with other officers "Didn't seem reasonable, kicking a prisoner while he's on the ground. I couldn't achieve what we were trying to do, which is get him cuffed."
The taser did not incapacitate Mr. Hyde, who screamed and jumped over a tall counter nearby. He fled into a nearby hallway, where he was caught and tasered again. Moments later he had stopped breathing. Officers brought him back with chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.