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Inquest into deaths of men who interacted with Manitoba police begins

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An inquest into the deaths of five men, who had interactions with police, is underway at the Winnipeg law courts.

The deaths happened over about a 12-month period between 2018 and 2019, and there are similar circumstances among all of them.

Sean Thompson, Matthew Fosseneuve, Randy Cochrane, Michael Bagot, and Patrick Gagnon all died after they were restrained by police and or taken into custody.

The Independent Investigation Unit, Manitoba's police watchdog, cleared the officers in all five cases of contributing to the deaths. The IIU concluded the cause of deaths were drug-related or some form of medical crisis.

The inquest will focus on the circumstances that lead up to the deaths, police use of force, and mental health and addictions services. The inquest will determine if anything could have been done differently to prevent similar deaths.

On day one, the focus was on Patrick Gagnon. An IIU report says police responded to a report of a man chasing CN rail engineers on October 25, 2018.

Officers testified Tuesday, they encountered Gagnon on the side walkway of a CN locomotive. They testified he was agitated, paranoid and was yelling at them calling them fake cops. The officers told the court they talked him down and escorted him off the train.

But at the bottom of the walkway Gagnon refused to let go of a ladder so they then restrained him and had to use more force in order to try to handcuff him. One of them, Constable Mark Adolph, said he used his knee to strike Gagnon in the shoulder to get his hands free as he was “turtling” and hiding his hands under his body. Constable Jonathan Kiazyk testified he threatened to use a Taser but did not. Eventually they got him in handcuffs, but when they flipped him over they noticed he was unconscious.

“I couldn’t feel anything for a pulse,” said Kiazyk.

They said they started doing CPR until an ambulance arrived and paramedics took over the care upon arrival.

The officers were asked if they could have done anything differently, they said no, but both raised the idea of having a defibrillator on hand.

There are several days set for the inquest between now and April. 

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