Mentally ill man who died in Lindsay jail was pepper sprayed, held down with leg irons, subdued by officers, report says
February 6, 2018
In the hours before he died in a segregation cell at a Lindsay, Ont. jail, 20 to 30 officers were involved in subduing a man with schizophrenia. They pepper sprayed him twice; covered his face with a spit hood; and held his body down with leg irons.
Documents obtained by the Star through a freedom of information request detail these occurrences as Soleiman Faqiri’s last moments in the Central East Correctional Centre, as found by an internal investigation by the Kawartha Lakes Police Service.
The 30-year-old Ajax man died on Dec. 15, 2016, in what police described at the time as an “altercation” with correctional officers in the jail, where he was being held on remand, awaiting a mental health assessment.
Faqiri had been arrested on Dec. 4 for charges of aggravated assault, assault and uttering threats. He did not have a criminal record, said the report, but had been apprehended by the Durham Regional Police Service, using their authority under the Mental Health Act, approximately 10 times over the past 10 years.
In Ontario, the act permits officers to apprehend individuals if they believe that person is at risk of causing harm to themselves or others — officers take these individuals for a medical examination.
In June 2017, a coroner’s report found Faqiri suffered more than 50 injuries, including a bruised laceration on his forehead, and multiple bruises and abrasions on his face, torso and limbs, from a three-hour confrontation with prison officers before dying in a segregation cell. The report said it was unknown what injuries were from his struggle with the officers, and couldn’t ascertain the cause of death.
The Faqiri family’s lawyers, Edward Marrocco and Nader Hasan, said in an email that police had provided the family “partial access” to documents obtained in the investigation into Soleiman’s death late last week.
“We remain bewildered that an investigation revealing this evidence could lead to the conclusion that the Kawartha Lakes police had “no grounds” to pursue criminal charges against the officers involved in Soleiman’s death,” said the lawyers.
“The information we have received…is very troubling and raises a number of questions that will need to be answered by the Kawartha Lakes Police Service.”
The family did not provide comment.
In the course of the five days Faqiri spent in segregation, reports obtained by the Star show he refused to wear anything besides his underwear, and he repeatedly covered himself in his own urine and feces.
He was seeing a ministry psychiatrist, but refused to take his medication. (According to the report, Faqiri had a history of non-compliance with his prescribed medications.)
From the onset, his fitness to face the charges against him was questioned because of his mental illness. The report states he had refused to leave his cell multiple times for both in-person and video appearances at court.
On Dec. 6, Faqiri was moved to a segregation cell “due to concerns for his safety, the safety of other inmates, and the safety of [jail] staff,” said the report. The court was informed of his mental health issues and remanded him, indicating that three days of medical help may help improve his capacity to understand court proceedings.
Three days later, on Dec. 9, Faqiri refused to get dressed for his video court appearance, He had smeared his own feces on himself, said the report. The court was told the prosecutor made several attempts to contact Faqiri’s family for assistance, but had been unsuccessful.
Previously, Faqiri’s parents and his older brother, Yusuf, told the Star they tried to visit their son three times in prison and each time they were denied access. Yusuf and his brother, Sohrab, say they went to both court and jail, too.
On Dec. 12, Yusuf and a mental health nurse who had been dealing with Faqiri since his arrival at the jail appeared in court; Faqiri appeared via video. The nurse told the court Faqiri wasn’t speaking to anyone, refusing his medicine, not eating properly, and lying on the floor, making no eye contact. Yusuf said that Faqiri was much worse than he’d remembered.
After hearing their evidence, the justice ruled that Faqiri be assessed by a mental health facility in Whitby.
Faqiri died before the assessment was completed.
Documents show that at 1 p.m. on Dec. 15, Faqiri was taken out of his cell by three officers and a health-care manager; he was covered in his own urine and feces.
Faqiri was handcuffed and covered in blankets, and escorted in a wheelchair to a shower down the hall from his cell. The wheelchair was used for hygienic reasons.
At 1:15 p.m., Faqiri entered the shower area; his handcuffs were removed. He was in the shower for an hour and a half, and, according to the report, he refused, on four occasions, to leave.
What happens next wasn’t entirely captured on video — for the privacy of the inmates, there are no cameras in the cells or showers. Faqiri’s final hours are based on investigators’ interviews with officers involved, witnesses and forensic evidence.
During his shower, the report notes Faqiri was squirting water and shampoo at the correctional officers through the window of the barred shower door.
Unable to make him stop, officers called their supervisors requesting the assistance of the Institutional Crisis Intervention Team — a group of officers that calm any disturbances caused by inmates
Requests for a crisis team to assist were denied and correctional officers were advised to manage Faqiri themselves.
At 1:45 p.m., a welding shield — a clear plastic free standing shield — was placed just outside the shower door to protect the officers in the area where Faqiri was throwing water and shampoo.
The jail’s superintendent called Faqiri’s psychiatrist to assist, who came and offered him snacks — crackers and peanut butter. This calmed Faqiri down.
Around 2:50 p.m., the supervising officer was able to handcuff Faqiri through the shower door. Five officers walked Faqiri back to his cell. The report states he began to display aggressive behaviour when a sixth officer, who had no previous history with Faqiri, joined them.
Faqiri began to resist, said the report, spitting at the guards, while still in the hallway. A guard used pepper spray on him as they reached his cell.
Faqiri was pulled and pushed into the cell by all six officers. He continued to display “aggressive and assaultive behaviour,” said the report. An officer delivered a knee strike; another forced his right lower leg on his back.
The struggle lasted for over 10 minutes, said the report. Faqiri tried to hit the officers with his hands, which are still handcuffed together, and also spat at and bit them. As Faqiri repeatedly tried to get up, officers delivered body strikes to his body to keep him grounded, “where they can better gain control of him,” said the report.
Pepper spray is used on him again.
A “code blue” was called, indicating officers needed help, and 20 to 30 officers came to the cell area. According to corrections ministry policy, when a “code blue” is called, all officers who can attend are told to go and assist.
The report states that these new officers started to “tap out” the officers “who were exhausting themselves in the struggle.” One of the first to leave was the supervising officer who had begun the escort.
A second officer takes command, said the report, and requested that a spit hood be brought and placed on Faqiri. This officer also requested leg irons to be brought and placed on him. The officer directed other officers to start leaving the cell to ensure their safety and to calm Faqiri’s behaviour.
The report states Faqiri’s mental health began to improve, as the officers slowly backed out of the cell. At this point, he was lying on his stomach with his hands up above his head, still handcuffed. He was turned around so that his head was at the back of the cell, and away from the door.
The supervising officer told Faqiri that his handcuffs were going to be removed and he would be re-handcuffed with his hands behind him. Faqiri, said the report, acknowledged and responded to instruction.
The cell door was locked and closed from the outside.
The report says a short time later, officers looked into the cell window and observed Soleiman was “possibly not breathing.” The officers entered the cells and removed the handcuffs and began CPR. Nurses soon arrived with a defibrillator.
Paramedics were called at 3:14 p.m. by a nurse, who said “there’s nurses everywhere, officers and vital signs absent.” According to the transcript of the 911 call, the nurse said they were still performing CPR on Faqiri.
According to a homicide/sudden death report, Faqiri was dead by the time paramedics arrived.
Members of the City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service (KLPS) were notified of the death “almost immediately,” at 3:45 p.m.
Faqiri’s family was informed that night.
In the hours that followed, a Kawartha Lakes police investigative team was created and the scene was secured and all disposable or time sensitive evidence was gathered and secured. All video was requested.
The shower, where Faqiri had been earlier, was still running, said the report; investigative officers were told it was broken and the water could not be turned off, said the report.
The interviews didn’t provide a lot of information, said the report, as jail guards had closed the “hatches” to the doors of each inmate’s cell, thus preventing them from looking out into the common hallway, or getting involved.
The investigative team reviewed all reports filed by officers involved and also examined video of the incident. The team interviewed most of the officers who were directly or indirectly involved in the incident. According to the report, those officers investigators believe were directly involved in use of force against Soleiman were advised of their Charter rights, and cautioned for the offence of murder.
“No correctional officer refused to speak to police,” said the report.
Based on all of this, in October 2017, “investigators did not form the belief that Soleiman’s death was as a result of criminal actions by the involved correctional officers.”
A coroner’s inquest into Faqiri’s death is pending.