Manitoba RCMP not blamed for man's death, but could have acted better: report
The report adds that officers could have handled the matter better if they had followed procedure and checked Boryskavich's record before going to the home. (file image)
By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, August 22, 2012 1:32PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, August 22, 2012 3:43PM CST
WINNIPEG -- An inquest report says RCMP are not to blame for the death of a northern Manitoba man they arrested in a violent confrontation, but it adds they could have handled the matter better.
The report by provincial court Judge Lawrence Allen places the blame for the November 2008 death of Nathan Michael Boryskavich squarely on the man himself -- a 43-year-old with a long history of violence and hatred of police.
"Mr. Boryskavich put himself in great jeopardy by violently resisting the attending officers," says the report released Wednesday.
"Evidence at the inquest indicates that he had done this on numerous previous occasions."
Boryskavich died in hospital of a broken neck artery following the confrontation with five officers, who had responded to a report of a domestic disturbance at his home in The Pas, Man.
Boryskavich, who was in the home with his former girlfriend and the couple's 12-year-old daughter, was the aggressor and reacted violently when officers arrived.
"This was a confrontation that was entirely initiated and sustained by the deceased," the report states.
After Boryskavich threw a punch, officers wrestled him to the ground and tried to handcuff him, but he continued to struggle and had to be taken to the ground two more times. Police pepper-sprayed him and kicked him three times. That included a glancing blow to the head as he spat at officers, who eventually hauled him away. He died the next day.
Doctors said the broken artery was probably caused by a twisting of the neck or a kick. The report said while there is no evidence the death was caused by the glancing blow to Boryskavich's head, such kicks should only be used in emergency situations.
The report also said the Mounties did not follow protocol at the outset. They did not look up Boryskavich's record in CPIC, the electronic database used by police forces across the country, before they arrived at his home. If they had, the report said, they might have taken a different approach.
"If the attending officers had accessed the CPIC report on Nathan Boryskavich, they would have seen the four 'cautions' directed to police. These are: violent, mental instability, suicidal tendencies and family violence."
The report also criticizes the officers for not removing Boryskavich's daughter from the scene immediately. She screamed at the officers as they wrestled with her father and watched the fight that led to his death.
The report contains several recommendations which focus on better training. It also points out that the five officers were relatively inexperienced, a common occurrence in more-remote detachments, which might have been a factor.
"Perhaps members with more experience would have handled this situation differently. Once again, it is difficult to contemplate suggesting to the RCMP that the proportion of experience to inexperience in their detachments should be altered. I suspect they would prefer more experience in their active ranks, but that is undoubtedly not necessarily easy to control."
There is also criticism of the RCMP's external review after the death. Neighbours were not interviewed, officers gave contradictory statements and were not pressed on the contradictions, Allen wrote.
"Never were they pressed or probed by investigators as would be expected as part of regular interrogation procedure. In short, the questioning was not what one would have expected if police were interviewing members of the public involved in incidents attracting police attention.
"Arguably, the interrogation conducted by the investigators could be categorized more as friendly interviews, rather than the normal interrogations the criminal courts see from any professional police force."
A Manitoba RCMP spokeswoman said Wednesday the Mounties were not yet able to comment on the report as they had only just received it. She said they would review it thoroughly.