On August 26, 2020, 28-year-old Cain Wapass was found unresponsive at the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation RCMP detachment.
Wapass, who was in custody of the RCMP at the time, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A public inquest into his death is taking place at the Coronet Hotel in Prince Albert this week.
The purpose of the inquest will be for a five-person jury to hear the circumstances around Wapass’ death in order to make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.
Typically coroners inquests employ a six person jury, however, one of the six jurors selected had to leave the inquest because of a personal matter.
First witnesses are third party investigator and paramedics
The first witness at the inquest was Cameron Lewis of the Moose Jaw Police Service who was called in as an independent investigator to investigate Wapass’ death.
Lewis testified that Wapass died due to complications with alcohol withdrawal. He also testified that Emergency Medical prefessionals and RCMP officers were called to the house he was staying in on Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation several times the day before he died.
In the late afternoon of August 25, Lewis says EMS were first called to a home as Wapass was displaying “erratic” behaviour. Wapass was described as having hallucinations and speaking to people who weren’t there. The 28 year-old would tell the paramedics he was suffering from alcohol withdrawal and was on methodone. Wapass declined their requests to take him to the hospital over concerns of oedema on his feet, which is described a a buildup of fluid. One of the paramedics would testify that Wapass appeared healthy both physically and mentally with a slightly higher than normal heart rate.
EMS and RCMP officers, would then be called to the house two more time because of Wapass’s described “erratic” behaviour, with the final 911 call at around 3:00 am on August 26 with claims that Wapass was causing damage to the house he was in and attempting to physically assault someone else in the house.
At this point, Wapass was taken into RCMP custody, where Lewis says officers had concerns about alcohol consumption as several empty beer cans were found in the room he was in.
The lead investigator then spoke on what seemed to be conflicting information – that EMS were told about alcohol withdrawal, but RCMP officers say Wapass told them he had been consuming alcohol.
However, the lead investigator would say Wapass’ cause of death was eventually determined to be complications due to alcohol withdrawal. Something Lewis says he has only seen a couple of times in his more than 20 year career as a police officer.
Lewis says Wapass was booked into the detachment without issue at around 5:00 am and just over two hours later Wapass was found unresponsive in his cell.
RCMP officers and EMS would respond, where life saving methods were undertaken, but the 28-year-old was pronounced deceased.
The public inquest into the death of Cain Wapass will hear from a total of 11 witnesses this week with the expectation the inquest will wrap up on Wednesday.
(PHOTO – Cain Gabriel Wapass – photo courtesy of Marshalls Funeral Service.)