Police behaviour was 'determining factor' in Koray Celik's death, medical expert testifies

Celik was in a state of “agitated delirium,” which would have also had a physiological effect on him, said a pathologist Thursday. (CBC - image credit)
Celik was in a state of “agitated delirium,” which would have also had a physiological effect on him, said a pathologist Thursday. (CBC - image credit)

A pathologist testifying at the coroner's inquest into the death of Koray Celik said that if officers had acted differently — or hadn't intervened at all — the 28-year-old could be alive today.

Celik, 28, died after police were called to his family home in Île Bizard in 2017. His parents called 911 because he had consumed alcohol along with pain pills prescribed to him and was intent on taking the wheel.

Four officers responded and Celik's parents have maintained that the police used excessive force on their son.

The final autopsy report indicates Celik died of cardio-respiratory arrest caused by intoxication.

But Dr. Yann Dazé, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Celik, said Thursday that the "cocktail" of drugs and alcohol likely would not have been lethal if Celik hadn't been in an agitated state.

Delirium likely contributed to outcome

Dazé said three drugs were found in Celik's bloodstream: diphenhydramine (usually used as an antihistamine), pseudoephedrine (usually used for nasal decongestion) and alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax). He had also consumed alcohol.

However, a toxicologist testified Wednesday that all the drugs were within what is considered non-problematic, therapeutic levels. The alcohol was also well below the legal limit, the toxicologist said.

Dazé said that Celik was also in a state of "agitated delirium" during the incident, which would have had a physiological effect. The body's "fight or flight" response would have elevated his blood pressure and heart rate, among other things, he said.

"[All those factors are] a cocktail that puts a lot of pressure on the body," he said.

When asked if the stress caused by the four officers could have had an effect, Dazé said he considers it a "determining factor."

Celik had been wrestled to the ground, restrained by four police officers and struck several times before entering respiratory distress.

"I can't be 100 per cent sure that without the agitated delirium, he would be alive," he said. "But I would say it's probable."

None of the four officers involved had had de-escalation training at the time of the intervention.

Submitted by Quebec's coroner's office
Submitted by Quebec's coroner's office

Violence not a factor

Dazé said he had reached his conclusion through a process of elimination. He testified that the physical injuries Celik received during the intervention were minor and could not have led to his death.

The trauma he did find, such as fractured ribs, were consistent with resuscitation attempts, such as CPR, he said.

Celik's heart muscle was also heavy and thick (hypertrophied), but Dazé could not say one way or the other if it influenced the outcome. He listed it as a possible contributing factor.

When asked if the drugs and alcohol alone would have led to the death, Dazé said it was theoretically possible but not probable.

Drugs and alcohol, combined with the delirium, were the factors he was confident contributed to Celik's death, he specified.

The inquest will reconvene on Nov. 21.