RCMP clears itself in Silverfox death

British Columbia's E Division major crime unit completed its investigations of the Yukon RCMP's M Division and "has determined that no criminal charges should be laid," said operations officer Insp. Brendan Fitzpatrick.

The RCMP is not laying criminal charges in the in-custody death of Raymond Silverfox.

British Columbia’s E Division major crime unit completed its investigations of the Yukon RCMP’s M Division and “has determined that no criminal charges should be laid,” said operations officer Insp. Brendan Fitzpatrick in a news briefing Wednesday.

Silverfox died on December 2, 2008 after spending more than 13 hours in the Whitehorse drunk tank.

In the hours before his death, the 34-year-old Carmacks man wet himself, defecated in his pants and vomited 26 times.

Roughly 60 per cent of the cell was covered in the mess.

When Silverfox asked for a mat to sleep on, he was told, “No, you can sleep in your own shit.”

Silverfox spent most of the time on the floor, sometimes moaning, curled up in the fetal position.

Emergency Medical Services wasn’t called until Silverfox’s heart stopped beating and he was found unresponsive.

He was pronounced dead two hours later from an acute infection he likely contracted by inhaling his own vomit.

Following his death, E Division began its criminal investigation.

Its task was “to investigate all circumstances leading up to and including the sudden death of Mr. Silverfox while in police custody and determine if any of those actions were criminal in nature,” said Fitzpatrick.

The investigation was “closely monitored” by an independent observer from the Commission of Public Complaints Against the RCMP “to ensure impartiality,” he said.

The investigation was completed in April 2009.

It found no reasons to lay criminal charges.

But a year later, new evidence turned up.

One of the cell-block video cameras included audio recordings that had not been noticed during the investigation.

In the tape, guards can be overheard talking about Silverfox.

“He’s definitely pissed himself,” Const. Dennis Connelly is overheard saying on the video.

“He’s unbuttoned his pants to get it away from himself. The only reason he hasn’t taken them off is that it’s cool in there.”

After asking if Silverfox is OK, and getting no response, Connelly can be heard saying, “Poopy, poopy, mcpoopy.”

When Silverfox asked for a mat to sleep on, the police officers made fun of him.

“Yeah, and you need a pizza too,” one constable is recorded as saying, “Is there anything else I can get you?”

Constable Jeffrey Kalles suggested they get him sausages so he has something else to throw up.

The audio quality was bad, but guards and police could be heard commenting on Silverfox’s predicament, calling it “gross” and “disgusting.”

Laughter could also be heard.

The E Division team did not discover the audio during its investigation, because it’s “technical,” said Fitzpatrick.

When pressed on how thorough the investigation was, since RCMP investigators didn’t even notice the audio, Fitzpatrick said, “each different system can be very different.

“And they are often contracted by different video contractors or suppliers, depending on how old it is….”

When the audio was discovered, investigators reviewed and transcribed the recordings and used a criminal analyst to review the investigation, said Fitzpatrick. Transcripts from the coroner’s inquest were also reviewed.

But still “opinion did not change,” he said.

“Charges should not be laid.”

Silverfox was afforded an ambulance before he was taken into custody and he was placed in cells just like other prisoners, said Fitzpatrick when asked about the treatment Silverfox received in RCMP custody.

“Unfortunately there were underlying medical issues,” he said.

When it was pointed out Silverfox vomited 26 times while in police cells, Fitzpatrick refused further comment.

“I would like to go further with these questions,” he said.

“But I have to be careful how far I go because of outstanding litigations.”

For years, the RCMP has faced public criticism for investigating itself.

It recognizes this is a problem, said Fitzpatrick.

And the RCMP supports “the notion of an independent investigative agency,” he said.

But for now, the RCMP continues to investigate itself.

“The investigation has a number of levels of oversight,” added Fitzpatrick, mentioning the Crown and civil libertarian organizations.

“And it has withstood all that scrutiny.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com