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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Autopsy results of Howard Hyde taser incident could take year: RCMP

November 27, 2007
The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — It could be up to a year before officials clearly understand what killed a Nova Scotia man who died in custody after being tasered by police a day earlier, the RCMP said Tuesday.

Sgt. Mark Gallagher said there are specialized tests that might be needed to determine why Howard Hyde, 45, collapsed and then died last Thursday at a correctional facility following a struggle with guards.

"Toxicology and some of the other samples need to be forwarded to laboratories," he said. "One of the processes could take up to a year." Sgt. Gallagher wouldn't reveal which tests might be needed, but said few labs do them and they are backed up with other cases.

Preliminary autopsy results from tests on Mr. Hyde's organs have been inconclusive, possibly raising the need for the more specialized examinations, he said.

Mr. Hyde, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his 20s, died after being forcibly subdued twice by security guards at the facility in nearby Dartmouth.

Fred Honsberger, executive director of Correctional Services with the provincial Justice Department, said Mr. Hyde refused to enter the admissions office and four or five other officers were called to help subdue him. As he was being lowered to the floor or shortly after, he stopped resisting and stopped breathing. Health staff were immediately called in and attempted to revive him using CPR. It's not clear how much the security guards knew about his health before trying to restrain him, but Mr. Honsberger said Hyde would have been evaluated by nurses when he arrived.

Health Minister Chris d'Entremont said an ongoing RCMP investigation into the case should shed some light on what happened to the amateur musician who had previous run-ins with police. When asked if he was concerned whether health-care workers at the jail might not have told guards of his mental illness for confidentiality reasons, Mr. d'Entremont said there might have been some "miscommunications going on."

"It's always a concern that certain informations are not made public or shared for those kinds of reasons," he said Tuesday. "I don't know until I see a full report on that."

Mr. Hyde had been arrested for assault last Wednesday and was tasered once or twice as he was engaged in a violent struggle with officers at the police station. Critics say Mr. Hyde, whose psychiatric problems were well known to mental health officials, should have received special treatment for his illness rather than being placed in a correctional facility.

Mr. Hyde was tasered by police in 2005, and was convinced the shock had hurt his heart. After he was tasered last Wednesday night, Mr. Hyde went into "medical distress" and was taken to hospital, examined and later released into the custody of correctional officials, police said.

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