By The Canadian Press
Winnipeg’s police chief says a man who was restrained by officers during a call to an apartment building on Friday night has died, and that the matter is now being investigated by the province’s police watchdog.
Danny Smyth told a news conference Sunday afternoon that a woman called police shortly after midnight about her boyfriend who she said was intoxicated, and that she was worried about her toddler and two infants who were with her in her suite at the time.
By the time officers arrived at the scene a few minutes later, Smyth says the man was lying on the ground in the parking lot.
Smyth says more officers arrived and they restrained the man with handcuffs, but he became “unresponsive” while they were escorting him to a police car, and the officers performed first aid and called for an ambulance.
When asked to explain what he meant by unresponsive, Smyth said he’d seen a clip of video posted online of the arrest and that it appeared the man “went limp while they were escorting him.”
The 35-year-old man, who police have not named, died in hospital Saturday night.
“We are aware that things can occur or be captured in little snippets online and a whole narrative can take off without anybody really knowing what occurred,” Smyth said, noting the province’s Independent Investigation Unit is now handling the investigation, which he said meant limited him in the details he could provide.
“I think it’s important that we try to provide some context but also respect the fact that IIU has to investigate it,” he added.
An aunt of the man has told The Canadian Press that the family isn’t speaking to media right now.
Smyth said an autopsy is scheduled for Monday, the results of which will be forwarded to the IIU.
He said he was not aware of the woman suffering any injuries, and that the children weren’t hurt, either.
Smyth said that when the woman first called police, there was “a lot of yelling and commotion in the background and reports of windows being smashed.”
The woman got out of the suite and was safely in another unit, Smyth said. She then called again and said her boyfriend had fallen down the stairs leading up to the second-floor apartment, and that he was lying in the snow at the bottom and was struggling to get up.
Another caller from the apartment complex reported the man had wandered into the parking lot and had fallen, Smyth said.
Smyth said that was where police first encountered him.
“They restrained the male when they arrived on-scene and as they were escorting him to their cruiser car, he became unresponsive,” Smyth said.
“Police officers stopped at that point, they called for an ambulance and they administered first aid.”
The IIU was contacted as per regulations involving an in-custody injuries or death, Smyth said. He said next of kin were still being notified on Sunday.
“I want to acknowledge the efforts of all front-line police and paramedic responders who did their best to assist,” Smyth said.
On Saturday, a rally was held in Winnipeg to call for reforms and mental health resources in the aftermath of the death of a 19-year-old international student who was shot by police on New Year’s Eve.
A lawyer for the man’s family has said Afolabi Stephen Opaso was having a mental health crisis when police were called by friends to an apartment.
The IIU said it has transferred the investigation into the shooting to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team. It explained the decision was made after the watchdog learned an officer involved in the shooting is a close relative of an employee of Manitoba Justice, the organization to which the investigative unit belongs.