PENTICTON - Video surveilance footage from the holding cell in which Steven J. Scott died two years ago shows he was possibly dead during early-morning checks.
The coroner’s inquest for Steven Joseph Scott, a 30-year-old man who died in a Penticton RCMP detachment cell in August 2012 continued today with testimony from the watch commander who was on shift the night Scott died.
Around 7 p.m., shortly after Cpl. Don Wigglesworth started his shift, Scott requested an ambulance because he said he couldn’t breathe. After talking to Scott for ten minutes, Wigglesworth decided it wasn’t necessary to call an ambulance because Scott did not appear to be in any medical distress.
“I didn’t identify any (signs) other than him telling me he wanted to go to the hospital,” Wigglesworth said.
It is common for prisoners with addictions to request an ambulance because they hope the doctor will give them something to help with their addiction, or rather the lack of drugs in their system, he said. This was a factor he needed to take into consideration when deciding whether to call an ambulance for Scott.
However, Scott continued to scream and curse and at 8:05 p.m. he asked for oxygen and again for an ambulance. Once he calmed down, Wigglesworth again did not see any signs of medical distress.
Scott had also asked for juice boxes on at least two occasions—around 5:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.—because his blood sugar felt low, he told police. The log book notes the juice boxes were for Scott’s diabetes, but Wigglesworth said he was not aware Scott had diabetes.
Cpl. Wigglesworth last spoke to Scott just before 11 p.m. Wigglesworth checked on all the prisoners around 5:45 a.m., he said, and when he couldn’t see Scott physically breathing through the plexiglass in the cell door, he held his hear to the open slot meant for food. Wigglesworth said he thought he heard Scott snoring and so he moved on, but after reviewing the video footage, it is clear he was hearing the snores of another prisoner.
He said he would have been more proactive had he thought Scott wasn’t breathing.
Video footage taken from a surveillance camera inside the cell showed Scott moving until just before 2 a.m., however there was no movement after approximately 2:01 a.m.
It is up to the five-person jury, consisting of two women and three men, to decide the time of death.
Since the incident, the plexiglass on the cell doors has been replaced and is maintained as necessary, he said. More senior officers are taking more responsibility also, he said, by checking on prisoners in holding cells at the beginning of shifts and recording notes in the log book. This effort has helped other officers, such as himself, with their duties.
The inquest continues Tuesday afternoon at the Penticton courthouse.
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