The Halifax Regional Police officers who Tasered Howard Hyde 30 hours before his death likely didn’t know he was schizophrenic because their colleague didn’t tell them, a court inquiry heard yesterday.
Const. Giles Gillis was one of the officers present when Hyde was arrested for assaulting his common-law wife. Gillis testified yesterday that Hyde’s wife, Karen Ellet, told him Hyde was schizophrenic and off his medications.
But Gillis never relayed this information to colleagues. About an hour later Hyde, in the midst of a psychotic episode, struggled with officers at the police station and was Tasered. He was then hospitalized and released, but died the next day struggling with jail guards on Nov. 22, 2007.
Gillis, now with the RCMP but at the time a HRP officer with one year’s experience, could have had Hyde sent to hospital. Instead Hyde went to police headquarters to be held overnight until he could appear in court.
“I still believe we were following the right procedure by holding him for court so we could have a judge decide if he needed to be evaluated,” Gillis told the inquiry into Hyde’s death yesterday.
Hyde had a criminal record that made note of his mental illness, which can be grounds for hospitalization instead of incarceration. But after Gillis performed a background check his reports made no note of the Hyde’s history with mental illness.
Gillis wasn’t able to explain the lack of reporting, other than to say he must not have found the information.
Carol Tooton of the Canadian Mental Health Association said it was troubling that Hyde wasn’t sent to hospital for medical help.
“I think that if the police had the appropriate training on how to deal with individuals in a mental health crisis, knowing the background and history of Mr. Hyde they should have sought out professional psychiatric help,” she said.