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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Victim’s family still has questions

February 7, 2009
Chronicle Herald

A brother-in-law of the late Howard Hyde says he and his wife plan to go every day to an inquiry into the death of Mr. Hyde in November 2007.

"This has been hanging over our heads for a very long time," Dr. Hunter Blair said Friday. "I’ll be very happy to see it begin."

Dr. Blair, a family physician in Barrington Passage, is married to Mr. Hyde’s sister and knew the man for three decades.

Mr. Hyde, 45, died on Nov. 22, 2007, some 30 hours after he was shocked with a stun gun at Halifax Regional Police headquarters.

The probe under the Public Inquiries Act will open Feb. 18 in Halifax provincial court with the bulk of the evidence to be heard in July and August.

Judge Anne Derrick will conduct the inquiry and make recommendations on matters arising from it, said a government news release.

Mr. Hyde, who had schizophrenia, died shortly after collapsing at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth. A stun gun had been used on him the previous day during a disturbance at the booking desk at police headquarters.

He had been arrested when police were called to a domestic dispute. His girlfriend said at the time that he had stopped taking his medication.

Mr. Hyde’s sister also said in an interview that he rarely took his medication regularly.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner later ruled the death accidental. Dr. Matthew Bowes said the death was due to what he called excited delirium and that the use of the stun gun was not a factor.

"I have a lot of questions," said Dr. Blair, whose wife Joanna was Mr. Hyde’s next of kin.

"(Mr. Hyde) could have been saved. He could have been taken out of the justice system and put into the health care system. He was not."

Dr. Blair said one of the arresting officers had taken Mr. Hyde into custody before and knew he suffered from mental illness.

"(Mr. Hyde) was in the emergency department for roughly five hours . . . after he collapsed after being Tasered," Dr. Blair said. "There has been no official comment whatsoever from the Department of Health."

Dr. Blair said he hopes the inquiry will result in changes in the way police treat people with mental illness.

"I would hope that there will be a great deal more latitude given to the people who deal with the mentally ill to get them into the places where they should be," he said.

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