Next week in La Ronge, we will learn the tragic circumstances surrounding the last hours of Walter Clinton McKenzie’s life.
The 32-year-old man is from the tiny community of Brabant Lake, about 200 kilometers northeast of La Ronge. In September of 2010, La Ronge RCMP arrested him for being drunk in public. About 30 hours later, he was dead.
What happened, why it happened and what can be done to prevent a similar death in the future will be the focus of a week-long inquest that begins in La Ronge on Monday.
Here is a timeline of the events that took place three and a half years ago:
-At about midnight on September 7th, 2010, La Ronge RCMP were called to the hospital to deal with an intoxicated man.
-McKenzie was arrested for public drunkenness and put in police cells.
-14 hours later, he was found unconscious in his cell.
-He was airlifted to Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital, where he died 16 hours later.
RCMP from BC were called in to conduct an investigation into the death. The results of their findings were never publicly released, although they likely will be next week at the inquest.
It is standard practice for an outside police agency to be brought in to investigate the death of someone who dies while in custody.
An inquest is also automatic in such cases, except when the coroner is satisfied the person’s death was due entirely to natural causes and was not preventable.
That is not the case in the death of McKenzie. The job of the jury at an inquest is to determine, who died, how they died, and if applicable, make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future. Those recommendations are not binding, but often result in policy changes. The inquest is not designed to assign blame.
The inquest will be held at La Ronge Provincial Court, beginning 10 a.m. Monday. It is scheduled to last five days and it is open to the public.