B.C.’s police watchdog has cleared Kamloops Mounties of any wrongdoing following the death of a man held overnight in the detachment’s holding cells in March.
Randy Lampreau, 49, died on the morning of March 13 from a health condition, but the actions of police during his time in custody fell within the standard of care expected, according to a report from the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO BC) released Thursday.
IIO representatives shared those findings with members of Lampreau’s family at a downtown Kamloops hotel on Thursday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Lampreau’s sister-in-law, Lenora Starr, said the family is “dissatisfied” with the RCMP’s policies and procedures for the types of situations in which her brother found himself and would like to see them addressed, particularly by finding better ways to care for intoxicated individuals rather than putting them in jail.
“As a family, we’re going to do everything we can to make Randy’s passing not be for nothing,” Starr said. “We want to prevent other families from having to go through what we’ve gone through.”
Lampreau’s brother, Arnie Lampreau, said he thinks it’s clear his brother didn’t receive proper care.
“I think my brother, if he had the proper assessment, he should be alive today,” Arnie Lampreau said.
IIO chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald told reporters there was no use of force by police, describing interactions between the RCMP and Lampreau as “fairly co-operative.”
“The steps taken while in the cells to conduct regular checks was all done in accordance with appropriate practice,” MacDonald said. “Unfortunately, near the end of the evening, he suffered from a life-threatening condition … and some influence of the presence of drugs in his system, which caused his death.”
Lampreau’s autopsy showed he died from inflammation of the heart, with the level of methamphetamine in his system acting as another “significant contributing factor” in his death. It also showed he didn’t sustain any significant injuries that would have caused his death.
The IIO had no concerns regarding police action or inaction during Lampreau’s time in custody, which was captured entirely by video surveillance during his arrest, through the booking process and inside the detachment’s cells, the watchdog’s report stated.
Kamloops Mounties responded to a complaint from a business in the 100-block of Victoria Street downtown at 9:30 p.m. on March 12. The complaint concerned an apparently intoxicated man remaining at the business after he was asked to leave. Police arrived and found Lampreau in a nearby parking lot, where he was arrested under the Liquor Control and Licensing Act and taken to RCMP cells, to be released when he was able to care for himself.
In video from the booking area, Lampreau seemed to sway and stumble, with officers steadying him on several occasions to prevent him from falling, according to the IIO report.
Lampreau then walked with officers to a cell and was left sitting on the floor in the corner.
A civilian cell guard told the IIO he checked on Lampreau and other occupants regularly through the night.
When roused, Lampreau indicated “he was good” and asked when he could leave, to which the guard told him “not yet,” as he still appeared intoxicated.
While monitoring cell video, at about 1 a.m., the guard saw Lampreau fall backwards onto the floor and went check on him. He said he was reassured Lampreau hadn’t hurt himself.
Lampreau was roused again at about 2 a.m. and seemed fine, the guard recalled.
By about 3 a.m. Lampreau lay down and the guard assumed he was “sleeping it off.”
The guard said he did checks every 15 minutes — as required — either via video monitor or through the cell window, noting Lampreau appeared to be breathing or otherwise moving slightly.
However, shortly before 6 a.m., the guard said he noticed Lampreau hadn’t moved for some time, so he went to check on him.
The guard said he noticed Lampreau’s “colour wasn’t right” and it appeared there was a small amount of liquid coming from his mouth. The guard called an RCMP officer, who then called in paramedics, who were said to have arrived quickly.
Lampreau was pronounced dead shortly after they arrived
The IIO report stated the guard’s account of what happened was corroborated by the cellblock log book and video evidence.
MacDonald said this death raises the question of whether jail cells are the appropriate place to house intoxicated individuals.
“I think it’s a question that needs to be addressed right across the country,” MacDonald said, noting he has spoken to police agencies that share his belief that it’s not the appropriate setting.
MacDonald said it’s standard practice for police to hold intoxicated individuals in cells until they sober up and conduct regular checks.
“But those are done by, essentially, lay persons who don’t have medical training in most cases,” said MacDonald.
Starr said the family challenged the IIO to go above and beyond mere letters of support and to keep in touch with them regarding what else they can do to help address the issue of intoxicated individuals dying in police cells. She said they will also be speaking to the BC Coroners Service and will be seeking an inquest into RCMP policies and procedures.
“It’s going to be a bit of a process. It’s a long road for the family, but we want to make sure that there’s something good that will come from this for other families and individuals that are in similar situations,” said Starr.
In light of the death, the BC Civil Liberties Association is reiterating its call for the province to add more sobering centres throughout B.C. Members of Kamloops council have also expressed support for the establishment of sobering centres in the city.
While he can’t say if the availability of a sobering centre would have changed Lampreau’s fate, MacDonald said it is an alternative worth considering.