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Officer used restraint tactic not taught in training, jury told

Custody death inquest continues before coroner
Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: May 10, 2013

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A suspect who died from asphyxia (lack of oxygen) in police custody was placed in a choke hold that was not taught by the Police Training College, a coroner’s jury heard yesterday.

Corporal 1287 Brian Roache told the court he used a restraint tactic that he had learned in his training as a martial artist.

The suspect, Jamie Smith, 35, gave police the false name of Matthew Pratt at the time of his arrest on February 8 on suspicion of armed robbery.

He died around 5 p.m. on the same date at the Central Detective Unit on Thompson Boulevard.

The inquest, which is headed by Coroner Jeanine

Weech-Gomez, has heard that Smith was cooperative and admitted his role in an attempted armed robbery and armed robbery before he allegedly tried to escape.

According to Inspector Ezra Maycock, a supervisor in the armed robbery division, Smith bolted for the door in his office after he instructed Sergeant Keno Smith to fingerprint him to confirm his identity.

Maycock said he grabbed Smith around the waist but could not control him as he was kicking and punching violently.

Roache said he heard someone shout “I ain going to jail” before he heard rumbling coming from Maycock’s office.

Roache said he ran to give assistance and placed Smith in a sleeper hold but he continued to kick and punch as Smith tried to grab his legs.

Roache said the hold puts pressure on the carotid artery and does not cut off the air supply.

In cross examination by Christina Galanos, who represents Smith’s family, along with Raymond Rolle, Roache admitted that when using the sleeper hold on someone you should be able to resuscitate the person.

Roache has said that he does not know CPR.

He said he applied and reapplied the hold for a duration of three to five minutes.

He did not agree with a suggestion from Galanos that if the hold were applied properly the subject would be rendered unconscious in seconds.

Roache demonstrated the move on his lawyer, Wayne Munroe, as his noisy colleagues from the Central Detective Unit who packed the courtroom suggested that he place Galanos in a chokehold.

Roache said Smith gasped for breath during the altercation. However, he attributed this to Smith being “winded”, not to the application of the chokehold.

Roache said Smith was not subdued until he was cuffed and shackled with the assistance of Corporal Sterling Knowles.

When he was questioned by Munroe, Roache said the law gives police the authority to kill a person to prevent an escape.

Munroe asked Roache why he didn’t just place his firearm on Smith’s chest and shoot him.

Roache said police were trained to use deadly force as a last resort.

However, he said it would have been a “game changer” if Smith got a hold of his firearm or Maycock’s.

The inquest continues on June 21.

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