In the summer of 2012, I published this article to the now, apparently, defunct blog 404systemerror.com. I think it remains important in light of continuing Toronto Police attacks upon African Canadians, and the surrounding system’s refusal to own up to the fact that the entire ecosystem of policing needs to be gutted and wholly recreated in a way that protects all equally.
The Catatonic Man in the SIUs Closet
After a downtown Toronto man who had been catatonic for two days resisted arrest, then died in Toronto Police custody shortly after arriving at hospital thirty minutes away in Etobicoke, the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario invented a whole new cause of death only possible for black people under restraint.
According to the official story, Adeyere Robinson died on his own in police custody after two days of sickle cell dehydration induced catatonia, or as the Coroner’s Office has it “Sudden death due to sickle cell crisis during law enforcement restraint.” On 21 February 2005, Toronto Police and EMS responded to a 911 call from a woman about a man acting strangely at his place of residence, 3700 Bathurst St. Mr. Robinson, whose first name is sometimes spelled Adeyeri, did not die immediately. The thirty-seven year-old, who at one point had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, “was said to have been in a catatonic state in a locked apartment without eating or drinking for two days prior to the intervention.” Reports diverge as to what state he was in when the Police and EMS arrived. A spokeswoman for the SIU would read us the conclusion of then Director James Cornish over the phone, including the fact that Mr. Robinson was found catatonic, resisted arrest, and had to be sedated, but will not pass those words along in writing unless and until the final press release can be discovered. (It may or may not exist in a paper copy of the file that is currently kept offsite.) An article by the Toronto Coroner’s office in The Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine (JFLM), meanwhile, states that, despite having been catatonic for two days prior, “[a]t the time of arrival of police and ambulance, he was conscious, alert and combative.”
The Toronto Police attempted to arrest the (recently?) catatonic Mr. Robinson with handcuffs. They struggled with him until EMS could inject him with a “calming drug” (per SIU spokes woman Monica Hudon) or restrained him with handcuffs before he “was given two separate intramuscular doses of 2 mg of midazolam while in the ambulance en route to the hospital” (JFLM). Seeing as this extraordinary turn of events was “deemed to be medium to low priority,” in terms of mental care, Mr. Robinson was transported halfway across Toronto to William Osler Health Centre in Etobicoke because “the west-end facility was next on the list for non-emergency patient transport.” Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Mr. Adeyere suddenly died.
Soon, the SIU announced an investigation. Three and a half years later, the Coroner’s Office announced an inquiry in Mr. Adeyere’s death. The Coroner’s Jury Verdict agreed with the cockamamie SIU story, the coroners dismissing the much more realistic possibility of positional asphyxia for the sole reason that Police and EMS assured them that after Mr. Robinson had been peaceably “restrained by handcuffing” he had been “transferred to the ambulance in a supine position with a semi-agitated state.” The SIU along with the Coroner’s Office, Jury, and JFLM writers appear not to have been concerned at all with the decision to forego the option of no fewer than eight hospitals at half the distance or less to the William Osler Centre. Adeyere Robinson’s death was ruled natural. Apparently sudden death due to sickle cell crisis during law enforcement restraint meets the definition of natural because being under restraint, particularly police restraint, is simply how black men are intended to live. All SIU news releases since 2005 are available online. All news releases, apparently, except the final press release in the surpassingly peculiar case of Adeyere Robinson. Since it appears that no media outlet found interesting the story of a catatonic man who resisted arrest and didn’t live to tell, we have asked the SIU to provide the names of the media organisations to which the original press release, should it ever be found, was originally sent.
In the meantime, Mr. Adeyere’s name now appears on the list of those Killed by Toronto Police since the establishment of the SIU in 1990.
Later, I finally received the original press release as below: 05-TCD-023