A Surrey RCMP officer photographs evidence found by a TV news crew Tuesday morning, in the same neighbourhood where a man died in police custody Monday afternoon. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Police return to South Surrey scene where man died during arrest

IIO Chief Civilian Director says circumstances ‘not unfamiliar’

The Independent Investigations Office is investigating in South Surrey, following the death Monday afternoon of a man in his forties who went into medical distress while being taken into police custody.

According to a police news release issued shortly before 6:30 p.m. Monday, Surrey RCMP received multiple calls that a man was standing in the intersection of 10 Avenue and 161A Street, yelling and “in some type of distress,” at around 1:40 p.m.

Officers attempted to speak with the man, and when they “tried to gain control and take him into custody,” he went into medical distress, the release states. Despite efforts to resuscitate the man, he was pronounced dead at the scene at about 3 p.m.

An IIO statement notes police told IIO investigators that the man went into cardiac arrest.

The area was cordoned off for the investigation, and BC Coroners Service was advised.

IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald told Peace Arch News Tuesday that few additional details – including what the man was yelling about – would be shared prior to the conclusion of the IIO’s investigation. The organization is mandated to investigate police-related incidents that result in serious harm or death, to determine whether an officer may have committed an offence.

IIO investigators cleared the South Surrey scene, but were to be back “in the area” Tuesday, MacDonald added.

That morning, Surrey RCMP officers were seen documenting and collecting evidence from a walkway in the neighbourhood.

While the officers would not comment, a TV news crew explained that they had called police after locating some pills on the walkway, which runs north-south between two 10 Avenue properties, and is located almost directly across from 161A Street, which is a cul-de-sac.

The officers marked the area with orange cones, took photographs and donned gloves to collect the evidence.

MacDonald could not say if the incidents were related; Surrey RCMP would also not comment.

MacDonald did say, however, that the scenario that unfolded Monday is not an unfamiliar one.

“This isn’t an uncommon circumstance. I’ve seen this before,” he said.

Every situation is different, and prior events have been linked to everything from substance abuse and mental health to personal circumstances, MacDonald said.

“We do see people who are reacting to circumstances in their life… and this leads to police involvement.”

Locally, PAN reported on the June 2008 death of David James Stitt, who collapsed and died after getting into a violent struggle outside his Crescent Road home with police responding to reports of a man exhibiting bizarre behaviour.

A coroner’s inquest attributed Stitt’s death to “cardiorespiratory arrest, due to or as a consequence of agitated confusional state (excited delirium) and restraint, due to or as a consequence of acute and chronic cocaine use.”

MacDonald said results of an autopsy and other tests would be considered in the IIO’s investigation of Monday’s death.

Anyone who witnessed Monday’s incident, or with information that could help investigators, is asked to contact the IIO at 1-855-446-8477.

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