Mark Rendell
Mark Rendell

Inuvik Woman Dies While Being Released from RCMP Custody

Medicine Hat police team arrives to investigate woman's death after overnight stay in cells.
The Inuvik RCMP Detachment

An external review is underway into the death of a woman in Inuvik who died while in police custody over the weekend.

The woman, whose name has not yet been released, died Sunday morning as she was being released after spending a night in a cell at the Inuvik RCMP Detachment.

According to an RCMP press release, “the female prisoner was in process of being released from custody when she unexpectedly went into medical distress. RCMP administered first aid on scene and subsequently the female was escorted to the Inuvik Hospital where she was treated by medical staff. She unfortunately passed away.”

The night before, she had been “arrested without incident for being intoxicated in public,” and escorted to the Inuvik Hospital for medical assessment, “where she was considered fit for incarceration by the medical staff.”

“The female was then escorted to the Inuvik RCMP Detachment where she was lodged in cells, slated for release once sober. The female was co-operative with police throughout her arrest and time in custody,” says the press release.

What happened on Sunday morning is not yet clear, and Inuvik RCMP spokesperson Cst. Kevin Devoe would not comment on the particulars of the case. He did, however, say that the event took place around 9:00 a.m., when people are usually released from overnight stays. The release process is typically straightforward, he added: “An officer opens the cell door, and then [the incarcerated person] signs for belongings and they’re released.”

Two officers from the Medicine Hat Major Crimes Unit arrived in Inuvik this afternoon to investigate the case.

“We’ll look at the totality of the event,” says the Medicine Hat officer in charge of major crimes, Staff Sgt. Trevor Humphries. “We’ll do what we can to trace back in time to the time of her arrest, what was her activity and actions leading up to the arrest. We’ll interview people involved… figure out what were her actions, conduct, in the days leading up.”

“With good luck, and if we’re able to get good traction, and meet all the witnesses, we hope to return to Medicine Hat on Thursday or Friday,” says Humphries. After that, “it’s usually a couple of months before we can put everything together [and release a report]. We have to wait for an autopsy report and cause of death.”

It’s too early to speculate about what happened, says Humphries. Though he added that if anything changes, or if the review turns into a criminal investigation, the Medicine Hat Police service will issue a press release.