Nova Scotia inquiry told man showed 'incredible' strength before Tasering

HALIFAX, N.S. - A Halifax police officer who helped wrestle a mentally ill man to the ground seconds before he was Tasered says the man had "incredible" strength and couldn't be forced onto his stomach using usual restraint methods.

HALIFAX, N.S. - A Halifax police officer who helped wrestle a mentally ill man to the ground seconds before he was Tasered says the man had "incredible" strength and couldn't be forced onto his stomach using usual restraint methods.

Howard Hyde, a 45-year-old Dartmouth, N.S., resident with a 20-year history of schizophrenia, died 30 hours later at a provincial jail.

Const. Ben Mitchell, one of a group of officers who were involved in restraining Hyde at the Halifax police headquarters on Nov. 21, 2007, was testifying Monday at the fatality inquiry into Hyde's death.

The inquiry, which is examining the roles that police, health officials and corrections officers played, is examining video of Hyde's restraint and Tasering, and asking police officers about their recollections.

The surveillance video shows Mitchell sitting at a booking desk in the police station when he hears shouting in the nearby fingerprint room.

The footage shows Mitchell putting on gloves and grabbing Hyde's upper body as the prisoner pushes past two other officers and is tackled in the booking area.

Mitchell helps bring Hyde to the floor and has his knee on him as another officer assists.

Asked about the strength Hyde showed during the struggle, Mitchell responded, "It was incredible."

"Based on my experience, myself and Const. Edwards should have had no problem in restraining him."

At the time, Hyde wasn't wearing any clothes aside from a pair of shorts, and Mitchell said there "was nothing to grab hold of."

"You can usually grab hold of a shirt, grab a coat. It's an easy way to get ahold of people. On top of that, he was also sweating profusely," said Mitchell.

On the night he was Tasered, Hyde had been arrested for an alleged assault of his common-law wife, Karen Ellet. The inquiry has heard that Ellet had told police that Hyde was mentally ill and had not been taking his medications for weeks.

Hyde's escape attempt started after one of the officers told him he had to use a serrated cutting tool to remove the string that was holding up Hyde's shorts - for his own safety.

Hyde was Tasered at least twice during the ensuing struggle. Hyde died 30 hours later during a subsequent clash with correctional officers at the jail in nearby Dartmouth.

Kevin MacDonald, a lawyer representing two of Hyde's family members, asked Mitchell about why the initial Tasering was necessary, given that the officer had succeeded in keeping Hyde on the floor with his knee and had his full weight on him for several seconds.

"We could not get control of him. We couldn't get him over on his side. We couldn't get his arms behind his back," Mitchell replied.

The dramatic surveillance videotape shows Hyde struggling on the floor and shouting, No! Sorry! and What are you doing?

MacDonald asked the officer why he didn't attempt to persuade the struggling man to regain his composure, and Mitchell said he was simply "busy" trying to get Hyde onto his stomach.

Mitchell wrote in his notes after the incident that he had asked Hyde to give him his hands.

However, after viewing the video on Monday, Mitchell said he didn't ask Hyde to surrender his hands for handcuffing.

MacDonald suggested the officer had put the statement in his report to "justify the use of the Taser."

But Mitchell responded, "That's wrong." He said he simply hadn't recalled everything correctly before he saw the video.



The inquiry has heard that Hyde later fell unconscious in the hallway of the police station and had to be revived using CPR. He was later taken to hospital and discharged with a form that said he should get a forensic psychiatric examination.



That never happened.

 
 
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