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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jury makes recommendations in Beamsville man's death

July 16, 2009

Training for police in the use of Tasers should include courses with "judgment scenarios," a jury from a coroner's inquest has recommended to the province.

The jury, which heard evidence over seven days about the death of 39-year-old James Foldi of Beamsville, made seven recommendations Wednesday, adopting or modifying six suggestions from lawyers.

They also determined Foldi's death was an accident, caused by acute cocaine toxicity leading to sudden cardiac death, in the setting of excited delirium.

That cause was modified from a pathologist's ruling that Foldi died from excited delirium due to acute cocaine poisoning.

A lawyer for Foldi's family had argued excited delirium in itself was not a cause of death.

Foldi died July 1,2005, around 3:35 a. m. after going through a tear in his Beamsville neighbourhood. Jurors heard he seemed "out of it" and ran into three homes that night, waving his arms, calling for help and leaving a trail of blood.

Police tried using a Taser in probe mode and pepper spray to control Foldi and eventually tackled him to the ground next to a garage, where he had jumped through a window to get outside.

He was again Tasered on the ground in the stun mode several times and handcuffed, when he suddenly stopped breathing.

Juries are not obligated to make any recommendations at the end of an inquest.

Jurors in the Foldi case made recommendations directed to Niagara Regional Police, Niagara Emergency Medical Services and the ministries of Health and Community Safety and Correctional Services.

They included a suggestion to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services that Taser qualification and annual re-qualification training courses also include "judgment scenarios."

The recommendation was not suggested by any of the lawyers, but during the inquest, jurors heard that the province is currently coming up with a new training model for police using Tasers.

The ministry was also told it should promptly distribute any updated or new information from an excited delirium study to police services.

It was also recommended the ministry equip police supervisor vehicles with portable automatic external defibrillators and that other appropriate personnel receive training to properly use the defibrillators.

That recommendation, made by the lawyer for Foldi's family, was not supported by the NRP's lawyer, who argued in court that officers are not medical personnel.

The ministry was given a fourth recommendation that product warning and training materials for use of force options and equipment, including Tasers, is promptly distributed to all appropriate police members.

During the inquest, the jury heard that an e-mail bulletin from Taser International on June 28, 2005, sat in a police officer's inbox while he was on holiday and wasn't distributed to other officers until August that year.

Other jury recommendations: The Ministry of Health and Health and Welfare Canada should make sure all reasonable efforts are made to alert the public to the dangerous effects of cocaine.

NRP and EMS should continue to work together in developing communications protocols aimed at prompt ambulance response.

NRP should review its general order dealing with use of force to ensure it reflects any product warnings and training memoranda for use of force options and equipment, including Tasers.

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