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Officer tells inquiry he could have used psychiatrist's help with Hyde

The corrections officer in charge of the scene when a mentally ill Nova Scotia man died in custody almost two years ago says he could have used the help of a psychiatrist that morning.

Sgt. Todd Henwood was testifying Tuesday at an inquiry of the death of Howard Hyde, who died after twice struggling with guards at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility on Nov. 22, 2007.

The inquiry, which started in July, is trying to determine why Mr. Hyde – under arrest at the time for an alleged assault – never received the psychiatric help he needed and what can be done to prevent similar deaths in the future.

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Sgt. Henwood, a corrections officer for 18 years, told the inquiry he was unaware that Mr. Hyde had schizophrenia and had not been taking his medication.

He said he rushed to a hallway near the jail's admitting area at 7:30 a.m. when he received a call over his two-way radio that other corrections officers needed help.

When he arrived, Mr. Hyde was on the floor, face down and surrounded by several officers. The 45-year-old musician, handcuffed behind his back, was then pulled down the hallway to a nearby cell, known as Search Room 2.

Sgt. Henwood said Mr. Hyde was making "odd" comments about his hair and being a Mountie after the first struggle, but the officer says he didn't consider bringing Mr. Hyde to the health-care unit because there were no qualified staff on duty.

"I would not," he told the inquiry, noting that it was just after 7:30 a.m. "I didn't have any resources to deal with it."

When asked what resources would have helped, Sgt. Henwood said he probably would have sought the help of a psychiatrist had one been working that morning.

Once inside the cell, Mr. Hyde continued to struggle with the guards.

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Sgt. Henwood said he grabbed the man's legs and pulled them out from under him, forcing Mr. Hyde to the floor.

Asked about the manoeuvre, Sgt. Henwood said Mr. Hyde's landing was "as soft as it could have been."

The senior officer said he recalled Mr. Hyde "bucking" his hips back and forth as he lay on his side. He said he used a hold called a wrist-lock to force Mr. Hyde onto his stomach.

Images from a surveillance camera inside the cell show at least four officers crouched over Mr. Hyde's body, but it is difficult to determine what is happening because only Mr. Hyde's feet can be seen.

Sgt. Henwood insisted that he didn't place his weight on Mr. Hyde's back, though he said he couldn't speak for the other officers in the room.

He testified that he thought Mr. Hyde had held his breath for a few seconds before one of his arms went limp and he stopped responding to the officers.

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"Mr. Hyde was not responding verbally," Sgt. Henwood said. "There was some blood coming from his mouth."

At that point, Sgt. Henwood recalled taking off the cuffs and saying to the other officers, "'Boys, we have a problem."' He said he was monitoring Mr. Hyde's breathing and detected a pulse before health-care staff arrived.

However, Sgt. Henwood also admitted that shortly after he learned Hyde had died, he had told the RCMP that he wasn't sure if Mr. Hyde had a pulse.

Sgt. Henwood said the stress of that day had taken its toll and he was second-guessing himself.

"But upon reflection, I'm confident ... that I had a pulse."

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