The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Manitoba, has found that the death of a man in custody on August 13, 2017 occurred after police “used force” in arresting and processing him on August 9. The man had complained of sore ribs during processing and was taken to hospital. He was returned to the Winnipeg Remand Centre and held in custody but was again taken to hospital from remand two days later. He died in hospital. The death was only reported to the IIU on August 16, so there are some concerns about police transparency and collusion in this case.
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Barely ten months into 2016 and there have already been four death associated with the Winnipeg Remand Centre. One victim who died during some type of struggle with an officer on October 12 has been identified as Russell Spence (31) of Winnipeg. Spence was involved in some sort of altercation with an officer during processing at the remand center. He became unresponsive at the center and was transferred to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Names of victims have typically not been released by authorities but the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation learned of Spence’s identity on October 26. His family has come forward asking for information about the specific circumstances of his death.
Russell Spence has been described as friendly and harmless. In the words of his older brother Kevin Bittern: “Russell was a friendly giant. All his friends and everyone knew he would not hurt anybody, or start anything. I find this very suspicious about his death” (quoted in Taylor 2016). Bittern does not believe Spence was resisting because of the man’s previous experiences in dealing with police. He is upset that the family has been kept in the dark about the killing of their loved one. The family is seeking legal assistance and attempting to piece together Russell Spence’s last hours outside. They are looking for any witnesses to the police intervention against the victim.
The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the oversight body that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Manitoba, is investigating the death because the struggle was with either a police officer or a corrections officer. The IIU has not revealed which force the officer belonged to. There has been no comment from Winnipeg Police Service.
Taylor, Jillian. 2016. “Remand Centre Inmate Who Died after Struggle was a ‘Friendly Giant.’” CBC News. October 26. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/russell-spence-dies-struggle-remand-centre-1.3822179