Saturday, October 27, 2012

Man calls British police for help -- so they kill him

They could have simply walked away when he failed to come out of his room. There was no reason for them to do otherwise

A coroner criticised a police force today after 'serious deficiencies' in procedures were exposed by an inquest into the death of a former cage fighter who died in custody after he was pepper-sprayed by officers.

Jacob Michael, 25, died by misadventure as a result of 'cocaine induced excited delirium', an inquest jury agreed, but also found that a catalogue of police failures may have contributed to his death.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Michael’s mother, Christine Michael, said she was 'disappointed' by the verdict and said she still held the police responsible.

The coroner listed a number of police failures, including: failures in police training, 'serious gaps' in the knowledge of operational officers, lessons were not learned as it was the second death in a relatively short period of time after a person was arrested and they had not recognised Michael needed urgent medical attention.

Cheshire Police said lessons had been learned and that a range of improvements had already been put into action.

The inquest was told that Mr Michael called police on August 22 last year after he believed somebody had pulled a gun on him.

He then locked himself in his bedroom in Lacey Street, Widnes, and was restrained by police officers after a struggle.

Police officers said Mr Michael threatened them with a hammer, which led them to incapacitate him with pepper spray.

Mrs Michael, who wept in court on hearing the jury’s verdict, said: 'I’m very disappointed, but we didn’t have much faith in getting a good result.'

She said: 'He should have been left in his room. He dialled 999, he hadn’t done anything wrong. He should have been left alone for us to deal with. It was an abandoned phone call, they should have just left and left Jacob and he’d be alive today.'

Mr Michael was arrested for alleged affray and taken by police van to a custody suite with his hands cuffed and his legs in restraints.

Footage taken from the police van and the custody office was shown to the inquest in which Mr Michael, who was known as Jake, can be heard repeatedly saying 'please' and 'sorry'.

The footage shows Mr Michael face down in the cell with his hands cuffed and his legs restrained - moments before police realised he was unwell. Two police officers can be seen with their feet on his leg.

The four-week inquest heard that Mr Michael was a cocaine user who would occasionally 'binge' on the drug, and had been taking it on the weekend prior to his arrest. He had also been warned by doctors about the adverse effects cocaine could have on his heart.

The jury of eight women and one man at Warrington Coroner’s Court, sitting at Daresbury Park Hotel, reached its verdict after more than two days of deliberations.

Reading their narrative verdict, Nicholas Rheinberg, the Coroner for Cheshire, said: 'Partying and his heart’s susceptibility to cocaine probably contributed to the death.'

The 'fear, flight and fight' response caused during the arrest 'may have also contributed to the death', the jury found.

The jury also ruled that 'ineffective' police training, procedural failures, failures to carry out a 'timely assessment' and a lack of communication may have also contributed to the death.

In a statement delivered through the family solicitor, Kate Maynard, Mrs Michael added: 'We believe that if the police had not stormed into Jacob’s bedroom then he would still be alive. Instead he died on the floor of Runcorn custody suite while handcuffed, face down and with police officers treading on his legs.'

A spokeswoman for Cheshire Police said the constabulary has already acted on information from the findings after a review by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into its processes, procedures and training.

New systems include: improved training around the condition of excited delirium; redesign of transport vans to improve the ability of drivers and escorting officers to monitor detainees; an ongoing roll-out of the issue of “long” handcuff keys to assist in the speedy removal of handcuffs.

Deborah Coles, co-director of campaign group INQUEST, said: 'This was a shocking death. Yet again, another inquest into a death following use of force has found failures at an individual and senior management level, and those responsible must be held to account.'

Original report here

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