Grande Prairie RCMP under investigation after death of man in holding cell

·2 min read

The family of a Grande Prairie man is looking for answers after 30-year-old Addison Hartzler died while in Grande Prairie RCMP custody.

The June 3 death is under investigation by a specialty unit within the RCMP, says the Hartzler family.

The family wants the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) to investigate instead.

“Due to the circumstances surrounding his death, we believe there was gross negligence in respect to the care provided to Addison while in the custody of the Grande Prairie RCMP and their staff and that an internal investigation by the RCMP is neither appropriate nor adequate,” said Gregory Hartzler, Addison’s father.

“As a result, we implore the Government of Alberta to direct ASIRT to handle the investigation.”

ASIRT has since taken over the case, according to the RCMP.

The initial decision for the RCMP to investigate came because of capacity issues at ASIRT, according to the Hartzler family lawyer in speaking with Marlin Degrand, assistant deputy minister for Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.

“It’s disappointing to see an agency set up by the Alberta Government as a police agency ‘watch dog’ is simply too over tasked and underfunded to actively investigate the death of an individual in police custody,” said Gregory. He said he finds it suspicious his son’s case was being treated differently than another recent case in the city.

ASIRT is investigating the death of a 26-year-old man in RCMP holding cells in Grande Prairie on Feb. 8, 2021.

The current incident began when Addison called 911 for what he believed to be a break-and-enter at his residence, according to the Hartzler family.

The family says Addison was taken into custody for public mischief within nine minutes of the police arrival after no evidence was found of a break-in.

RCMP described Addison as acting “in a psychotic and delusional manner,” says the family.

“It is our view that, given his alleged state of health, Addison was unlawfully detained and that the RCMP failed to provide the necessities of life,” said Gregory.

“We believe these system failures resulted in Addison’s untimely death.”

The RCMP never had Addison assessed by either EMS or a physician, says the family; they believe Addison should have been assessed before being detained.

The Hartzler family says in documents attained through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act that Addison was last seen alive at 9 a.m., and then more than two hours later, RCMP placed a request for EMS.

“The EMS report indicated that Addison was ‘obviously dead’ and had been for some time,” said the Hartzler family.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News