There is little that could have been done to avert the death of a woman who died of a stroke suffered while in an Edmonton police jail cell, Alberta’s police watchdog said Monday.The 55-year-old woman, who the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) did not identify, died hours after being arrested at the Belvedere LRT station on Aug. 6, 2017. Family members identified her as Deanna Noname.ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson said the woman appeared to be fine to officers monitoring cells in the police service’s detainee management unit, located below the Edmonton Police Service headquarters.But at around 10 a.m. on Aug. 7, 2017, a peace officer heard laboured breathing coming from the cell where Noname was housed with other women and found her in medical distress. She died that evening in hospital of what was later determined to be an acute hemorrhagic stroke.Hughson called the woman’s death “tragic,” but said it was not a result of anything police did or failed to do. Anyone observing the woman at the time of her stroke might have concluded she was intoxicated or sleepy, she said.“Unfortunately, it is unlikely that anyone understood what was happening, including the woman,” Hughson told reporters at ASIRT headquarters Monday. “That is one of the more insidious and dangerous aspects of a stroke.”She added that EPS has a “strict” prisoner management system and that all required checks on the woman were made.Since 2014, ASIRT has investigated or reviewed 27 in-custody deaths in Alberta. The peak came in 2015, when ASIRT investigators looked into 13 in-custody deaths — a broad category which includes both cases where people go into medical distress during an arrest and people who die in homes surrounded by police. There were three in-custody deaths in 2017 and one last year.Police were called to the Belvedere LRT station at around 2:30 p.m. after a 911 call. ASIRT said a young woman, one of Noname’s daughters, had jumped onto the LRT tracks and lay down before her sister helped her back onto the platform.Police arrested the woman who had climbed onto the tracks for public intoxication and took her sister into custody on outstanding arrest warrants. Meanwhile, the 55-year-old woman wandered off. The officers soon learned the mother had called 911 to say her daughters had been “bear sprayed” by police, which officers said did not happen.They found her at the entrance of the LRT station yelling at patrons, and arrested her for making a frivolous 911 call and causing a disturbance.Police determined the woman was out on bail and had outstanding warrants, including for theft, Hughson said.That evening, the woman was taken to police headquarters to await a bail hearing. She told police she sometimes used oxygen for respiratory issues. Otherwise, she appeared to be OK and said she did not immediately need any medications, Hughson said.At around 8 a.m. the next day, she “tipped over” while seated on the floor and struck her head. The blow, caught on CCTV cameras, did not seem severe enough to injure Noname, and she continued to be responsive until the 10 a.m. cell check.An autopsy found the stroke was not related to physical trauma, and that an underlying disease affected her blood’s ability to clot. It also found low levels of methamphetamine and diazepam in her system.“The woman’s death was the result of a medical event that could have occurred anywhere, at any time,” Hughson said. “There is no evidence to suggest that the care and supervision provided … played any role in her death.”CCTV cameras captured nearly all police interactions with the woman from the time of her arrest, Hughson said, adding staff at the lockup cannot review or erase footage from the internal camera system.Hughson said Edmonton police may now staff the lockup with a paramedic to check on detainees. Police could not confirm this by press firstname.lastname@example.org/jonnywakefield
Deanna Noname, 55, died after being held in police custody on Aug. 7, 2017. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team investigated her death.