The family of Robert Stone is filing a complaint with the Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP after finding heavy bruising and what they see as Taser-like marks on his head.
They have also retained a lawyer and are calling for a second autopsy.
Stone was found dead in detox earlier this month. He died at approximately 10 a.m. on May 2, 26 hours after his release from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
“I think his head was slammed in a door, either a car door or a cell door,” says Irma Scarff, a friend of the family. “It (the marks) starts behind his ear and goes all the way around his forehead to the other ear. The dent goes all the way across his forehead.”
Scarff says in her past, when she was in trouble with the law, the RCMP slammed the cruiser door on her head and the marks on Stone are similar in pattern. She also believes the man was Tasered.
“There were scorched prong marks all over his ear, on top of his head, in his hairline, on the sides, on the forehead,” she says. “There’s over 10 marks. Two black scorch marks in his temple. Its almost like it was pushed so hard it punctured his skin.”
Photos also show one leg appears to have an injury along its entire length.
Stone was in the hands of various authorities for the last 14 hours of his life, but the chronology of events remains unclear to the family.
The matter is under investigation by the Medicine Hat Police Service, which would not provide any information until the report is complete. Staff Sgt. Brent Secondiak expects to have it finished by the first week of June.
But according to Scarff, Stone had been arrested two months earlier, just days after his wife Lu-Anne Clement died of heart problems. She says he was a chronic alcoholic and had many misdemeanor charges relating to drinking in public and then breaching the conditions of his sentence.
Stone spent two months in the Whitehorse Correctional Center and was released the morning before his sudden death.
“He was released from WCC at 8 a.m. Saturday May 1 and showed up at Salvation Army shortly after. A lot of people were really happy to see him because they hadn’t seen him since Lu-Anne passed away,” said Scarff.
“They knew he was grieving for his partner still and, out of respect, I don’t think anybody would have beat him up because they knew what he was going through.”
Stone was seen downtown throughout the day. He was drinking, but had no injuries to his head, says Scarff.
According to original reports, an ambulance picked him up at Petro-Canada gas station on Fourth Ave at 7:50 p.m. that same night. The family would like to know if Stone had those marks on his head at the time he was picked up.
During transport to the hospital it is alleged he became combative, but he was cleared by medical attendants to be released to the RCMP. The family wonders how a medical exam could have been performed on a man who was supposedly fighting the attendants. And if he had head injuries, why did medical attendants determine it was OK for Stone to be released?
Scarff wonders if the head injuries occurred after he was released into custody of the RCMP.
At about 9 p.m. he was put in the drunk tank. At 2 a.m. he is said to have complained of chest pains and shortness of breath. An ambulance was called and he was taken back to the hospital, examined and released.
Again, the family wonders why anyone with extensive head injuries like those on Stone was given clearance to be released from the hospital.
Stone is said to have admitted himself to detox and was found dead at 10 a.m.
Coroner Sharon Hanley says the preliminary autopsy did not establish a cause of death, “but there is no indication that (the head injuries) had anything to do with his death.”
Stone’s body is now in Vancouver where a pathologist is doing further testing including toxicology and microscopic tissue examination.
“The time needs to be looked at from when he left the hospital,” says Scarff. “What shape was he in when he left the hospital and what shape was he when he arrived at detox.”
Stone leaves his two children orphaned and his family devastated. His mother Monica Stone says her son’s death has not been explained to her and neither the RCMP nor the chief investigator have talked to her.
“When I saw my son I couldn’t believe it. I just want answers,” she said.