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Special constables charged with criminal negligence in man's death
Two special constables with the Halifax Regional Police are facing charges in connection with the death of a man who was found unresponsive in a police cell in June 2016.
Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) says police first responded to a report of an unwanted man at the IWK Health Centre shortly after 10 p.m. on June 15, 2016.
Officers arrested Corey Rogers outside the hospital for public intoxication. He was taken into custody at Halifax Regional Police headquarters, where he was placed in a cell around 11 p.m.
SIRT says police found the 41-year-old man unresponsive in the cell around 1:45 a.m. on June 16. Emergency Health Services were called, but Rogers couldn’t be revived.
SIRT launched an investigation into Rogers’ death and, on Tuesday, charged special constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner with one count each of criminal negligence causing death.
Investigators say Fraser and Gardner were working as booking officers the night Rogers was arrested.
SIRT Interim Director John Scott says criminal negligence causing death carries a maximum of life in prison.
Rogers’ mother, Jeannette Rafuse-Rogers, says she was told her son died from asphyxiation. She believes the use of a spit hood – a device that covers a person’s head and prevents them from spitting on police – was a factor.
“The system saw him as a drunk and a nuisance,” Rafuse-Rogers says. “To those of us who knew and loved him, he was far more than that.”
Rafuse-Rogers is now calling on Nova Scotia’s justice minister to launch an official inquiry into her son’s death.
Halifax Regional Police issued a statement Tuesday, saying it cannot address specifics of the incident, but that it is committed to the care of people in custody.
“Proper care of those in custody is a priority for us, and as such, we review and enhance our practices and are confident in our employees’ ability to appropriately manage the care of people in custody,” said Const. Dianne Penfound.
Penfound says a Police Act investigation into Rogers’ death remains open, but will be suspended until the court process has concluded.
Both Gardner and Fraser are still both employed as civilian members of the Halifax Police Service. They were released from custody on $5,000 bail.
“The burden will be on the Crown to prove the alleged offence and then we'll go from there,” says Gardner's defence lawyer Joel Pink.
Jeannette-Rogers says in addition to the two booking officers she'd hoped SIRT would have charged the three constables who arrested her son. She wants to see the police department held accountable for her son's death.
“I want to see changes made in the system itself. I want it made mandatory that police officers are required to follow their own policies,” says Jeannette-Rogers.
The case will be back in court in January.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.