Inquest investigates death in police custody

Gillian Smith's voice broke on the other end of the line. "I was born and raised in the Yukon," she said. "Half my friends are native.

Gillian Smith’s voice broke on the other end of the line.

“I was born and raised in the Yukon,” she said. “Half my friends are native.”

Smith was testifying before the inquest into the death of Raymond Silverfox.

She was one of the ambulance attendants that responded to a call from the Salvation Army shelter on December 2, 2008.

Silverfox was later taken into police custody and by the next morning he was pronounced dead.

Smith broke down and became upset during her interview when peppered with questions from the lawyer for the Silverfox family.

Some questions implied that Smith or her partner may have treated Silverfox differently because he was native and at the shelter.

She passionately denied this and said that if she had seen her partner behaving inappropriately she would have done something about it.

The lawyer questioned why Silverfox wasn’t taken to the hospital.

“Raymond was a 43-year-old adult. He had been drinking, but I don’t think drinking takes away your right to make decisions,” said Smith.

“I am not allowed to kidnap people and take them to the hospital.”

The coroner’s inquest looking into the incident began yesterday at the Yukon Supreme Court.

The six-person jury was told that Silverfox was a hard worker and not a heavy drinker, although he occasionally went binge drinking.

He had been in a fight a few days prior to the incident and had been kicked in his kidneys.

He later complained of back pain.

In early December, Silverfox went to Whitehorse to celebrate his birthday.

James Kayotuk was an employee at the Salvation Army that evening.

Both Silverfox and his girlfriend looked pretty drunk when they arrived at the Salvation Army shelter at 1 a.m. that night, Kayotuk told the jury.

They had talked about sharing a 26-ounce bottle of vodka.

She put her head down on one of the tables and passed out.

Silverfox later woke her up and the two were gone for an hour and a half.

When they returned, Silverfox’s girlfriend fell asleep again.

He was fine for about a half an hour, said Kayotuk.

Then he started throwing up onto the floor, remaining seated in his chair and without attempting to make it to the bathroom or a nearby trashcan.

Salvation Army staff decided to call the ambulance.

Smith and her partner found Silverfox sitting at a table with his head down, sleeping.

There was a puddle of vomit at his feet.

The Salvation Army staff was tired of looking after him, said Smith.

They didn’t want him to stay there anymore.

Silverfox was easy to wake and Smith found him to be relatively alert and aware.

He was about a 5 out of 10 in terms of intoxification, she told the court.

He had no problem standing, walking or talking. His speech was slurred but he was able to answer his name, birthday and where he was.

Silverfox made no complaints about his physical well-being.

Smith gave him the option of going to the hospital or with the RCMP. He couldn’t stay at the shelter, he said he had nowhere to go, and wasn’t dressed for the cold December weather.

Silverfox didn’t want to go to the hospital and chose to go with the RCMP.

The inquest was automatically triggered because Silverfox died while in police custody.

It will continue today and throughout next week.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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