During a public inquest into the case of man who died while in police custody, a Kelowna courtroom heard that the man had overdosed on fentanyl.
On April 1, 2017, Edward James Waddell was found dead in a jail cell in Kelowna. Waddell had been spending each weekend in custody as part of his non-consecutive jail sentence. As a “weekender” Waddell would check into jail each Friday and be released on Monday, repeating the schedule each weekend until his sentence was completed. The “weekender” type of sentencing is intended to minimize the impact of a jail term on a person’s ability to work and contribute to society.
A public inquest is undertaken anytime a person dies while in police custody to ensure that no death is overlooked or concealed.
A jury of seven people have been asked to determine five things at the conclusion of the inquest; the identity of the deceased, the location, the time, the means, and the classification of the death.
On Friday March 31, it is suspected that Waddell had been driving to the Kelowna jail where he served his weekend sentence, when he was involved in a single vehicle crash.
A paramedic who attended the scene was called to the stand as a witness in the inquest. The paramedic said that during the medical evaluation, Waddell had told him multiple times that he was not injured and did not want any medical care. However, the paramedic told the court that he suspected that Waddell was likely under the influence of drugs like opioids. The paramedic said that he notified police that Waddell refused medical care, but was likely under the influence of drugs.
Waddell was arrested at the scene of the crash for impaired driving and was taken to the police station for a drug recognition exam.
The arresting police officer testified that Waddell appeared to be under the influence of drugs at the time of the arrest. At the police station, Waddell began complaining of chest pain and was taken to the hospital.
After being discharged from the hospital without concern of any life threatening conditions such as drug overdose or severe injury, Waddell was taken back to the police station to spend his scheduled weekend in jail.
While being checked in to jail, Waddell was strip searched but was not subject to an invasive cavity search.
Independent Investigations Office (IIO) Investigator, Rocky Clelland was called to testify in court.
The investigator said that video footage of Waddell in the jail cell shows that he was last seen moving in his bunk at approximately 10:10 a.m. on April 1, after having spent an extended period of time in the bathroom.
Lunch was delivered to the cell shortly after 1 p.m. and multiple cell checks were conducted before an officer noticed that Waddell did not appear to be breathing at approximately 2 p.m.
Immediately after noticing that Waddell was not breathing, officers began attempting resuscitation.
Waddell was eventually pronounced dead in the Kelowna jail cell. Clelland, the investigator, told the court that an autopsy determined that Welland had died of an overdose.
Clelland said that he cannot confirm how the drugs were brought into the prison.
The public inquest will continue on Monday June 19, with two more witnesses being called to the stand. Then, jury deliberations to determine the identity of the deceased, the location, the time, the means and the classification of the death, will begin.
The jury will have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances.