Man who died in Prince Albert police jail cell was frequently sick and drank ‘abnormal’ amounts of water before passing, inquiry hears

Prince Albert Court of Queen's Bench -- Herald file photo

An inquest into the death of a 34-year-old man who died in a Prince Albert Police Service cell more than a year ago officially began on Monday.

Coroner Tim Hawryluk is presiding over the inquest into the death of Ryan Kereluk, who was arrested on May 16, 2018 and found unresponsive in his cell two days later. An autopsy later determined the death was due to methamphetamine toxicity.

Kereluk’s friends and family members packed into the courtroom’s front row to hear Monday’s testimony. They left briefly during upsetting video evidence showing Kereluk’s final hours in cell number nine.

Sgt. Adam Dunn of the Prince Albert Police Service and Sgt. Bradley Beaton of the RCMP were the only two witnesses called during the first day of hearings. Roughly 20 more will follow before the end of the week.

Dunn’s testimony was the first and longest of the day. He gave the court his findings from a report filed after Kereluk’s death.

Dunn spent much of his time outlining what is and isn’t unusual behavior. For instance, Kereluk was frequently sick throughout his final hours, vomiting seven times between 11:39 p.m. on May 17 and 6:35 a.m. on May 18. Often he would vomit, and then roll over and go back to sleep.

He also drank more than 40 glasses of water in 12.5 hours after being remanded into custody. Dunn called that an abnormal amount of water, but said doctors told him it was unlikely to be the cause of death.

Other behaviors, however, were quite normal. Kereluk frequently asked guards to turn off the lights, inquired what time of day it was on multiple occasions, and asked to change cells after becoming sick. Dunn said those are all normal requests that guards often hear.

Dunn also testified that Kereluk had a prescription for Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat medical conditions like arthritis, headaches and back pain. When Kereluk asked guards to give him his medication, they complied.

The majority of Monday’s testimony focused on constructing a timeline of Kereluk’s final two days. His last interaction with guards occurred at roughly 6:36 a.m. on May 18, when he asked when they were serving breakfast. His breakfast arrived at 7:13 a.m., but remained untouched until 7:40 a.m., when it was taken away. Guards returned to check in on him four times during that period.

When asked by Hawryluk why guards didn’t realize something was wrong based on how Kereluk was laying partially on the floor, Dunn said it’s not uncommon for people to sleep in a variety of ways.

Dunn testified during video evidence shown at the inquiry that Kereluk appeared to experience medical distress at around 6:57 a.m. He also testified that Kereluk did not visibly consume anything that was not given to him by guards or police officers. An ambulance was called at around 7:54 a.m.

Police service rules severely limit when guards can enter a cell without an officer present. Dunn said that’s due to safety concerns. He declined to elaborate further when asked, telling the inquiry he wasn’t their supervisor, and because of that it was difficult to go into details about their training.

During video testimony, Dunn pointed out numerous occasions where Kereluk could have been concealing a physical object while sitting in a squad car after being arrested. However, Dunn also said the video was not 100 per cent clear.

The majority of Beaton’s testimony focused on the arrest that lead to Kereluk being held on remand.

He was one of multiple people arrested by Prince Albert’s Integrated Street Enforcement Team (ISET) while executing a search warrant on a residence located on Sixth Avenue West. Beaton testified that police did not believe Kereluk was connected with any illegal activity going on at the residence, however he still had a number of outstanding warrants from 2017.

Beaton testified that as far as he knew, Kereluk did not ask for medical attention after being arrested.

The inquest starts again on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 9:30 a.m. at the Court of Queen’s Bench.