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Monday, July 13, 2009

Officer recalls new details at inquiry

July 13, 2009
Halifax — Globe and Mail Update

The officer who arrested Howard Hyde told a fatality inquiry into the paranoid schizophrenic's death that he now remembers new details concerning the threat posed by his prisoner shortly before he was tasered.

The mentally ill man had been off his medication for weeks and he was acting increasingly erratic. Arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife, the 45-year-old was tasered more than once during a fracas in the booking room of police headquarters.

He died 30 hours later in a Dartmouth jail after a fight with guards.

Halifax Regional Police Constable Jonathan Edwards told an inquiry into the death that the booking room struggle with Mr. Hyde brought the prisoner inches away from a drawer full of knives and other weapons. The drawer was unlocked and the one immediately above it was missing, he testified, giving Mr. Hyde a clear view of these weapons.

He received his first tasering seconds later.

Click here to view proceedings and archives

Constable Edwards acknowledged that concern over Mr. Hyde arming himself during the struggle had not been mentioned in his notes or in subsequent statements he'd made. It emerged for the first time today, during his second day of testimony.

The officer explained the revelation by saying he had a lot on his mind during and after the incident and he might simply have forgotten.

Also emerging was Constable Edwards' recollection that Mr. Hyde had tried to reach for a tool that officers intended to use to cut the drawstring of his shorts. This part of the incident was not captured on surveillance cameras. The altercation at police headquarters broke out immediately after.

Constable Edwards testified that Mr. Hyde was too strong to be restrained by three officers. After being tasered, the prisoner leapt over a waist-high counter and ran into a nearby hallway that led out into the parking lot. He was stopped there within reach of the door, Constable Edwards said.

The taser was used in the hallway as well. Mr. Hyde stopped breathing there and had to be revived with chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth. He was checked into hospital and lodged in a local jail. He died there the next day, following a struggle with guards.

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