Family and friends of a Winnipeg man who died in police custody are searching for answers.

For Brian Norbert, in town from Edmonton, it’s been years since he spent time with his older brother David Norbert.

He says his brother was a residential school survivor and struggled with alcohol, and recently started opening up about the abuse.

"I can't believe he's gone. This shouldn’t have happened at all,” he told CTV News Tuesday.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which investigates all serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba, said based on information from Winnipeg police a 56-year-old man was arrested for two alleged assaults on the night of April 16. He was brought to the North District station on Hartford Avenue and put in a holding cell, while officers processed the charges.

A few hours later, the IIU said he was found unresponsive, taken to hospital in critical condition and was pronounced deceased a short time later.

Anna Sousa is David Norbert's close friend. She said police called her to see if he could stay with her, but she couldn't take him. The next morning she said police told her he had hanged himself, but after talking with the IIU, she was told that was not the case.

"They said no because there is nothing to hang himself. There's only a mat there. How is he going to hang himself.”

David Norbert was a painter. He will also be missed by co-workers Matt Collins and Dan Sinclair, who knew him for the past 10 years.

"They found him unresponsive in a holding cell, and they're supposed to be checking up on him,” said Collins. “He worked every day Monday to Sunday. Anytime we needed him, he'd come help us.”

"I just talked to him the night before and he seemed fine. He was happy, laughing, telling jokes,” said Sinclair.

His family wants to understand how he died in case something can be done to prevent others from experiencing this type of painful loss.

“I just want to know the truth. I just want to get to the bottom of this,” said Brian Norbert.

For now the IIU isn't releasing any more information about what happened and said all the contact David Norbert had with police is part of the investigation.