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Friday, July 10, 2009

Hyde showed ‘tremendous strength' in struggle: officer

July 10, 2009
Halifax — The Globe and Mail

The police officer who arrested Howard Hyde told a inquiry into the paranoid schizophrenic's jail-house death that the man was showing “tremendous strength” in a struggle with several officers, forcing them to taser him.

Halifax Regional Police Constable Jonathan Edwards, who said that Mr. Hyde had been calm and collected before an altercation erupted in the booking room, testified that he had no idea his prisoner was mentally ill and off his medication. He had confirmed receiving that information over the radio, he acknowledged Friday, but said he hadn't heard the whole message.

The officer said that his 45-year-old prisoner became “antsy” as they moved to cut the drawstring of his shorts. A violent fracas ensued that quickly drew in other officers. Constable Edwards testified that he ran through various options as they grappled on the floor, rejecting chemical spray and his baton as unsuitable. Fearing they were losing the battle, officers moved to a taser.

Mr. Hyde was zapped several times – the exact number remains unclear. After he had been manhandled into a “restraint chair” officers noticed that he had stopped breathing. He was revived and checked in hospital before being lodged in a Dartmouth jail.

He died in the jail, approximately 30 hours after being tasered, during a struggle with guards. It is unclear if they knew his mental condition.

The flow of information has already emerged as a key issue at the Hyde inquiry, which began hearing witnesses this week.

Computer records showing Mr. Hyde's troubled history were not accessed by the officers rushing to respond to a domestic abuse call by his wife. He fled when they arrived and she told them about his mental illness, and that he was erratic and not taking his medications. One of the responding officers did not think to pass on the information. The other did, but Constable Edwards apparently did not hear it.

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