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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Inquiry demanded into Italian man's death in Quebec jail

October 4, 2007
CBC News

Quebec City's Italian community is demanding a public inquiry into the death of a 32-year-old man who died last week while in police custody. Claudio Castagnetta, a business student at l'Université Laval, died Sept. 20 of self-inflicted wounds after he reportedly banged his head on a wall while in police custody. The Italian immigrant was arrested Sept. 18 after he wandered into a corner store barefoot and apparently confused. The owner shooed him out but Castagnetta wouldn't move on so the police were called.

It took six police officers and a stun gun to remove him from the street. He was arrested for disorderly conduct, and kept in a cell. That's when Castagnetta started to hit his head against the wall, according to reports from his ex-wife.

He was eventually charged with resisting arrest. Castagnetta's health started to deteriorate the day after police apprehended him, and he died soon after.

At an evening vigil held in his honour in Quebec City, Castagnetta's supporters said he should have been sent to a psychiatric hospital, not a jail cell, given his strange behaviour while in custody.

"We don't understand how this can happen here in Quebec in 2007," said Marco Michele Sisto, Castagnetta's friend. "If they made an error, we want the police to recognize there was an error," he said. "In my opinion, a public inquiry would be important in order to make the police publicly test themselves and check their operative techniques and stuff like that."

Many people close to Castagnetta said he'd been acting strange in the days leading to the corner store incident. He was paranoid and talked about having to protect a friend from a co-worker who had 'demonic' eyes, said Jesse Zimmer, another friend. "I think the more people learn about it, the more they are outraged. I think a lot of people are just trying to make sense of it."

Castagnetta's body was returned to Italy this week where his parents will bury him.

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