Jailhouse Video Captures Police Indifference

By Lloyd Dolha

BC First Nations leaders are calling for an independent inquiry into the death of Frank Paul, a Mi’mak from Big Cove, N.B., who died from exposure more than four years ago after Vancouver Police dumped him in an alley, drunk and soaking wet on the rainy night of December 6, 1998, in near-zero temperatures.

Concerns were raised after the release of a jailhouse video on June 25, which showed a drunken Paul, on hands and knees, passed out on the floor near the police station elevator. He was dragged into the elevator by two police officers and died hours later from hypothermia.

BC Police Complaint Commissioner Kirk Ryneveld has reopened the case and released the tape to Victoria lawyer Steve Kelliher, who is acting on behalf of the Paul family.

Kelliher said the officers involved told internal investigators that they released Paul because, although he was drunk, they believed that he could take care of himself.

Following the internal investigation, the two officers involved were given a one and two day suspension. There was no public inquiry or coroner’s inquest into the death of the 47-year-old Mi’mak man.

New evidence reopens case
Ryneveld said that he was convinced to reopen the case by recently revealed information that caused concern regarding the methods in which the investigation was handled.

“The family deserves to know the facts concerning Mr. Paul’s death, in light of conflicting reports his family received regarding the circumstances of his death,” said Ryneveld.

A jailhouse guard, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he believes that a report he wrote about the Paul incident never reached the proper authorities.

The guard said that he helped lift Paul into the police wagon, on the understanding that police would drive him home.

Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, has written to BC Attorney-General Geoff Plant, formally requesting a public inquiry into the death of Frank Paul.