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Edmonton inquiries

Edmonton prisoner needed pills prior to guard scuffle and fatal elevator fall

Edmonton Police Crest

EDMONTON (CP) - A teen prisoner who fell to his death down a courthouse elevator shaft after tussling with guards had not taken his medication for severe behavioural problems for two weeks, a nurse told an inquiry Tuesday.

Sherri Roles was a psychiatric nurse at the Edmonton Young Offender Centre when Kyle Young, 16, was admitted on Jan. 19, 2004, after being arrested by police. Roles testified she met with the boy to determine if he was a suicide risk or posed a threat to other inmates.

"Kyle was very co-operative and calm and participated in the interview," she said. Roles noted the youth said he was doing well and seemed to accept his situation.

The nurse said she asked if he was on medication. Young replied he had been prescribed Prozac and Respiradol for anger and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The boy then told her he didn't have any medication with him and hadn't taken any of his pills for two weeks.

"He definitely needed a new prescription," Roles said. She booked him for an appointment with a staff psychiatrist to obtain the medication.

The appointment was made for the morning of Jan. 22, but he never made it. That was the day Young, who was shackled and wearing handcuffs, was removed from a cell at the courthouse by two guards because he was acting up.

The guards, both over six feet tall and each weighing more than 200 pounds, have testified the boy fell five storeys down the shaft after they pressed him against an elevator door and it popped off its tracks.

On Monday, Young's mother testified her son was like any other normal teenager when he took his pills. She said he had been on medication for behavioural problems since he was six year old.

But when he didn't take his medication, he could "flip out" and would swear, throw things and show disrespect to authority figures, Lorena Young said.

She said Roles' testimony reinforces what she has always known.

"I'm just glad that we found out that Kyle was not on his medication as a fact, not just as the family knowing," she said outside court.

"Now everybody knows because the lady said so."

On Monday Young also testified that staff at the young offenders centre told her that her son wasn't allowed to receive medication from his family.

Roles said that wasn't true.

The nurse also testified she classified the youth as stable with no need for mental health checks.

Earlier Tuesday, Don Livingstone, a supervisor at the centre, testified Young was held in a special security cell the day before he died following a dispute with a staff member.

Staff ordered Young to strip and wear a garment, known as "baby dolls," that was used for young offenders thought to be a suicide risk, Livingstone said. Inmate slang for the garment was "wearing a dress."

Livingstone testified the Alberta government has since discontinued the use of such garments.

Lorena Young and her lawyer contend it was lack of proper medication that was responsible for her son acting up the day he died.

Toxicology tests performed after the boy's death were inconclusive.

His mother has said she hopes the inquiry, headed by provincial court Judge Jerry LeGrandeur, will determine if excessive force was used by the guards and if the elevator door was defective.

A review by Alberta's Justice Department last year said guards used "a modest amount of restraint" and followed "normal procedures" with Young.

Public fatality inquiries establish the cause, manner, time and other circumstances of a death. They do not determine legal responsibility but may offer recommendations to prevent future deaths.

Witness says Edmonton police put words in her mouth after fatal chase

EDMONTON (CP) - A witness at a fatality inquiry testified Tuesday that officers coerced her into saying a police chase ended well before a high-speed crash that killed two fleeing teens.

The inquiry is probing the deaths of Cory Bishop, 16, and Ryan Pope, 17, last year. It was a scorching hot July afternoon when Dana McKinney was in front of her house having a cigarette when she saw a police chase end on a residential street in north-central Edmonton. She also saw the subsequent crash in a nearby intersection, she testified.

After police aborted the chase, the Chevy Cavalier carrying the teens sped up and roared through a stop sign at the next intersection, she and others testified. The teens then smashed into a Honda Civic travelling through the intersection.

The Civic spun and hit a light pole, but none of the four people inside was seriously hurt.

But the car carrying Pope and Bishop hit a curb and ended up on its side. Still moving from the force of the impact, it skidded forward and wrapped around a tree, roof first.

Bishop, the passenger, was killed outright. Pope died shortly afterward in hospital.

"It (the Cavalier) went through the intersection at about 80 (kilometres per hour)," McKinney estimated.

But she disputed her written police statement when it was read at the inquiry. Although she agreed it was signed by her at the time of the crash, McKinney said the statement included things she never said.

She testified that three police officers were talking to her, one of whom wrote the statement for her.

McKinney told the inquiry the officers changed her statement to say the cruiser had aborted the chase about halfway down the block - far from the intersection.

She said when the cruiser turned off its lights and sirens and pulled over, it was the fifth car before the intersection, much closer than the officers said.

The officer taking her statement said to her: " 'You're in shock. Maybe you should rethink what you're saying to me,' " McKinney testified.

"They told me I was biased because my sister died in a police chase in '79."

McKinney said she signed the statement anyway. "It's better than arguing with three police officers," she told the inquiry.

There was no plan to call the investigating officers to testify at the inquiry, which is delving into the circumstances surrounding the teens' death with the view of making recommendations to prevent such deaths from occurring in the future.

The two officers who pursued the teens directly contradicted McKinney's evidence when they testified separately later Tuesday.

Both said they stopped the chase and pulled over three-quarters of a block before the intersection where the horrific crash occurred.

They were acting under orders from a sergeant in downtown headquarters who had told them to terminate the pursuit.

One of the officers, Const. Lance Parker, said an unmarked cruiser, a secondary unit, had arrived at the scene and was parked five cars away from the intersection.

The officers saw the teen driver commit a couple of traffic infractions and started following the vehicle, the inquiry heard. When they tried to pull the car over and it took off, the chase was on.

Both officers said they felt public safety wasn't endangered by the pursuit. There were no pedestrians and no traffic on the road, they said.

"Aside from it being in a residential area, the conditions were ideal," said Const. Brian Heideman, who was driving.

The pursuit went for nine blocks and lasted 73 seconds.

The inquiry continues Wednesday.