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Judge criticizes officers at inquest into man's death during arrest

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Manitoba RCMP have come under fire for their conduct in an altercation that left a 43-year-old man dead.

A provincial inquest report released Wednesday paints a troubling picture of the circumstances surrounding the November 2008 death of Nathan Boryskavich in The Pas.

"It’s clear from the evidence received that in several key areas the officers involved did not follow either a common-sense approach to the situation, nor did they follow the RCMP policy manual," provincial court Judge Larry Allen said in his decision.

Boryskavich died of a brain hemorrhage after a violent confontation with officers responding to a domestic-related call. He was pepper-sprayed and wrestled to the ground, ultimately causing his neck to become twisted in such a manner that he suffered a fatal injury.

"The RCMP officers could have handled this situation in a manner more closely approximating their training and the best practices of policing. They did not," said Allen. He also criticized the way police gave evidence, saying they contradicted each other, and their previous statements on "many instances."

"The attending officers were not good witnesses," he said

Still, he said Boryskavich must also share in the blame for the tragic outcome.

"Mr. Boryskavich put himself in great jeapordy by violently resisting the attending officers. Evidence at the inquest indicates he had done this on numerous previous occassions," said Allen. "There is no specific failure on the part of attending officers which can be said to have produced this result. It is not possible to say that any commission or omission on the part of the RCMP caused his death."

Allen’s only recommendation was to provide "considerably increased" training to junior RCMP members, and "somewhat increased" training to veteran officers. This would include all aspects of their job, including dealing with volatile situations to note taking.

Allen said that the evidence provided by RCMP was so shoddy it may have resulted in an acquittal of an accused if provided in a criminal court proceeding.

"I point this out only to suggest that the RCMP consider tightening up procedures in a situation like this. Once it is clear that there is a use of force situation, the scene should be preserved and involved officers should be required to carefully and completely detail their involvement," said Allen.

On the night of the incident, RCMP had been called by Boryskavich’s ex-wife who wanted him removed because she feared for her safety. He became "combative" with five attending officers – at one point throwing punches at them -- and was left unconscious as a result of the struggle to control him, according to the judge.

Police admit they kicked him twice in the stomach area and hit him with a "glancing" foot strike to his head area. There is also conflicting testimony about whether he may have slipped and fell on a snow-covered patio while leaving the home or whether police knocked him to the ground

Boryskavich was rushed to hospital, where he died the next day. An autopsy revealed he had prescription anti-depressants and sleeping pills in his system with a blood alcohol level of 89 mg.


Updated on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 11:51 PM CDT: Corrects typo

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