Several police involved in the takedown of a man who died hours later in hospital gave testimony at an inquest into the man’s death Thursday. At around 1:00am on the morning of August 28th, 2007, Larry McPherson was placed under arrest by police. He was pronounced dead in hospital later that morning.
Three officers—Cpl. Sliworsky, Cst. Crack and Cst. Shearer—were scheduled to testify in the inquest yesterday, but after hearing them, the jury requested that a fourth officer who was also present, Cst. Petre, come in and submit to questioning.
Cst. Shearer, the first to speak, testified that he was in the process of responding to a call at Matthews Park when he heard reports of windows being smashed at 100th St. and 93rd Ave. Shearer decided to respond. He said he was driving south down 100th St. when he came upon McPherson, who was holding a large rock in each hand. Cst. Shearer testified that McPherson dropped the rocks when he asked him to do so; however, McPherson then began running. Shearer stated that Cst. Crack had arrived by that time and had parked his car in the McKenzie Inn parking lot. Cst. Shearer then says he saw Cst. Crack chase after McPherson while he got back in his cruiser and followed the two.
Cst. Crack testified that he was on general patrol on the morning of the incident, and had left the detachment to respond to a call of someone yelling for help at the Northern Grand Hotel. Crack stated he knew that two other cruisers were following him down 100th St. from the detachment, one of which turned west onto 100th Ave. He then testified that he heard a report on his radio of a male breaking windows near Fountain Tire. Crack says that he arrived on scene too late to see whether McPherson had been holding rocks in his hands as Cst. Shearer had stated. He said that as McPherson began to run, he stumbled, which allowed Crack to catch up with him. Cst. Crack testified that he then put McPherson in a headlock, and Cst. Shearer took the pair to the ground. Shearer stated that during the struggle, he managed to cuff McPherson’s left arm, but that McPherson had folded his right arm underneath his body.
Cpl. Sliworsky testified that he had followed Cst. Crack. He stated that he approached Crack, Shearer and McPherson while they struggled and held McPherson against the ground. Cst. Petre testified that he then arrived on the scene and held McPherson by his legs as the other officers attempted to subdue him. Petre said he then heard one of his fellow officers command McPherson to “stop resisting.” Cst. Petre said he then remembered Cst. Crack telling McPherson that he was under arrest. Cst. Shearer then managed to cuff McPherson’s right arm.
There was a general consensus by the officers that at this point that they picked McPherson up facedown and attempted to load him into the back of a police cruiser. The officers said they had gotten McPherson partially into the cruiser when they decided that he was struggling too vigorously and needed to be further restrained to avoid damaging the backseat of the cruiser or harming himself. The officers said they then placed McPherson on the ground and Cst. Shearer retrieved a device called a Rip Hobble from his cruiser. Shearer said he then put the device around McPherson’s ankles to limit his movement. The officers testified that either as or just before they began to lift McPherson to his knees, he became unresponsive.
Cst. Shearer testified that at this point he attempted to find McPherson’s carotid pulse, but he could not determine it from his own, because his own pulse was elevated from the intense struggle that had occurred minutes earlier. The officers testified that they then moved McPherson into the recovery position. Shearer stated that another officer then tried to find McPherson’s radial pulse, but was uncertain if he had felt anything. The officers then testified that McPherson entered what looked like a seizure. Cst. Petre said he found a towel that McPherson had been carrying and placed it under his head to prevent McPherson from scraping his face on the pavement as he shook. The officers stated that McPherson seized for several seconds. Cst. Petre said that when McPherson stopped shaking, he knelt down next to him and asked him what his name was. He said McPherson mumbled something that sounded like “Leonard.” The officer then testified that “like a switch,” McPherson began struggling again as though he was trying to get away. Petre remarked that McPherson seemed just as strong as before, and that was surprised that McPherson was still able to struggle. The officers testified that by this point, the ambulance had arrived, and as the ambulance personnel brought the stretcher towards them, McPherson once again went silent. Shearer testified that McPherson was uncuffed, but ambulance personnel asked that officers put the ambulance’s leg restraints on McPherson for their safety. Csts. Shearer and Petre testified they began CPR and artificial breathing with an airbag, and continued in the ambulance as they accompanied McPherson to hospital.
The attending paramedic also gave testimony Thursday. She testified that she received this call at 1:06am. Her report of the night indicated she was asked to respond Code 3 (lights and siren) to assist RCMP. She testified that her team was on the scene at 1:11. The paramedic testified that she was surprised to see a man on the ground who was restrained, but was still managing to move around four RCMP officers. She testified that she saw a piece of fabric on the ground which she thought had previously been under McPherson’s head, and she also saw abrasions on his face that she assumed to be road rash. She said she knew his airway and breathing were okay, as he was yelling, but she was not prepared to intervene right away because she feared for her safety. The paramedic testified that she began to address the man by the name provided by the RCMP, “Leonard.” She stated that McPherson did not appear to be aware of her despite this. The paramedic said she returned to her ambulance to get a cot, and by the time she returned, McPherson had become unresponsive. She also added that RCMP did not appear to immediately recognize that he had become unresponsive. She stated police told her he had gone unresponsive before. The paramedic’s report stated that by 1:15am, she had the cot out of the ambulance. She testified that police uncuffed McPherson and put him on the cot, then put the BC Ambulance leg restraints on him at her request. The paramedic testified that she took out her AED, an automatic defibrillating device, and attached it to McPherson. She stated that McPherson now had no breathing, no pulse, and his eyes were fully dilated (a possible sign of brain death). The paramedic said that after receiving 5 signals from the AED that the patient would not benefit from a shock, the ambulance left the scene at 1:26am. Her report stated that at 1:29am, the ambulance arrived in hospital. During that time, she testified, McPherson never regained consciousness.
During cross-examination, the paramedic was asked about the symptoms of cocaine psychosis. She agreed with statements by counsel Andrew Kemp that the symptoms included paranoia, aggravation, violent temperament, elevated metabolism, and superhuman strength. Kemp also asked the paramedic about the wounds on McPherson’s face, which she termed superficial.