Coroner announces inquest to look at B.C. man's in-custody death

The B.C. Coroners Service has announced an inquest into the death of Randy Dale Lampreau, a member of the Simpcw First Nation who died in RCMP custody.

Lampreau, 49, died in a Kamloops RCMP holding cell on March 13, 2019, after being arrested for public intoxication the previous night.

An investigation by B.C.'s police oversight agency, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), found that Kamloops RCMP was not responsible for the man's death and that police actions were reasonable during the time Lampreau was in custody.

The IIO concluded that Lampreau died from inflammation in his heart muscles, which can cause sudden death. It also said methamphetamine toxicity was another contributing factor, and the levels in his system were "in the lethal range."

B.C.'s police watchdog is investigating after a man who was being held in an RCMP cell in Kamloops died.
B.C.'s police watchdog cleared officers of responsibility in Lampreau's death. (Google Street View)

However, the news of the coroner's inquest is reigniting calls from Lampreau's sister to change how the RCMP treat people in custody, particularly those arrested for public intoxication.

"It just stirs up everything again, you know, for what we went through with my brother passing in city cells," Regina Basil, Lampreau's sister, said at news of the coroner's inquest.

"It's a healing process to keep fighting for the integrity of my brother and how he was treated," she added. "And how all these steps weren't done proper. And I'm sure he'd be here today if all that [proper steps] was done."

Basil is pushing for medical professionals to look after those arrested for public intoxication instead of cell guards, as well as updated RCMP protocols for how those incarcerated for drug use or public intoxication are treated.

Recommendations from coroner's inquests are not legally binding. They serve to determine the facts of death and make recommendations to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.

The inquest into Lampreau's death will begin on July 22 at the Kamloops Law Courts.

The law court building in Kamloops.
The law court building in Kamloops is where the inquest into Lampreau's death will be held. (Marcella Bernardo/CBC)

IIO investigation cleared officers

An IIO report into Lampreau's death said that he was arrested and taken to holding cells at the Kamloops RCMP detachment on March 12, 2019.

A civilian cell guard who came on duty around midnight said Lampreau was already in custody when he clocked in. He began regularly checking on the 49-year-old and others in custody.

Around 1 a.m. PT, the guard says he saw Lampreau sway and fall backwards onto the cell floor. When he checked in on Lampreau, the guard says Lampreau rolled onto his side and told him he was fine.

Two hours later, according to the report, Lampreau was seen to lie down in his cell, and the guard assumed he was "sleeping it off."

The guard checked on the man's condition every 15 minutes after that, according to the report. However, around 6 a.m. PT, he noticed he had not moved in some time.

Paramedics were then called to check on Lampreau, but he later died. The IIO later cleared officers, including the cell guard, from being responsible for the death.

Kamloops RCMP told CBC News that the detachment's officers were stressed about the death and the investigation at the time and later participated in a smudging ceremony at the request of Lampreau's family.

Basil is pushing for sobering facilities for anyone accused of public intoxication, with medical professionals who can immediately respond if a detainee's condition worsens.

Regina Basil, the sister of Randy Lampreau, says she will continue to fight for justice on behalf of her brother.
Regina Basil, the sister of Randy Lampreau, says she will continue to fight for justice on behalf of her brother. (Submitted by Regina Basil)

"They had a security guard looking at a monitor and checking on people every so many times — whatever, you know their routine," she said. "But that person is qualified to see if a door is unlocked or locked. He's not qualified to look after a human being.

"My brother was my life, you know? I plan to see it through until the final," Basil added when asked if she would attend the inquest.