B.C. firefighters describe Myles Gray’s injuries at coroner’s inquest

B.C. firefighters describe Myles Gray's injuries at coroner's inquest
Protesters hold banners with a photograph of Myles Gray, who died following a confrontation with several police officers in 2015, before the start of a coroner's inquest into his death, in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, April 17, 2023. The British Columbia coroner's inquest into the death of Myles Gray has heard from the first non-police witness who was at the scene where the 33-year-old died.

Myles Gray had bruising around his eyes and along the sides of his neck when he stopped moving in the minutes after a beating by Vancouver police, a retired fire captain told the British Columbia coroner’s inquest into the 33-year-old’s death.

Former Burnaby, B.C., firefighter John Campbell testified that he noticed the injuries after Gray stopped struggling and police rolled him over to perform CPR.

Gray died after the beating by several officers in August 2015 that left him with injuries including a fractured eye socket, a crushed voice box and ruptured testicles.

When Campbell first arrived at the location where police had been struggling to handcuff Gray, he said an officer told him to wait while the scene was secured.

The officer assured him that police would monitor Gray’s condition, he said.

It’s common for police to instruct firefighters to wait a short distance away if there’s still violence at the scene of an arrest, Campbell told the inquest on Tuesday.

When he did see Gray, Campbell said the man was lying face down, handcuffed with a strap around his legs, but still struggling as officers told him to stop.

Campbell testified that Gray suddenly became motionless.

He said police then removed the handcuffs and rolled Gray over to begin first aid, before firefighters and later paramedics took over and performed CPR.

The first responders tried to revive Gray for about 40 minutes until he was pronounced dead at the scene, Campbell told the inquest.

He agreed with a lawyer for the police department that he believed Gray’s breathing was not impaired in the moments before he stopped struggling.

Another Burnaby firefighter, Lt. Young Lee, said an officer led him to the yard where Gray was handcuffed and struggling as police held him down.

Lee testified that one of those officers said firefighters couldn’t yet move in to assess Gray’s condition because he was still “combative.”

The firefighters’ operational guidelines indicate they are not to treat a patient until police have said the scene is secure, said Lee, who instead walked around the yard to get a better look at Gray from a distance of about three metres.

Lee said one officer had a hand on Gray’s head, while a second used his chest to hold Gray’s torso down, a third was pressing down on the back of Gray’s legs and a fourth officer was holding the end of a strap that was used to restrain Gray’s legs.

Soon after Gray stopped moving, Lee said his partner ran to get their defibrillator and oxygen kit as police began chest compressions.

He said the defibrillator did not find a heart rhythm that would have prompted firefighters to shock Gray.

The firefighters’ testimony came after 14 police officers explained their roles at the inquest that began on April 17, from the first to respond to the initial 911 call to those who attended to a call for backup and joined in the struggle to handcuff Gray.

Gray had been in Vancouver making a delivery to a florists’ supply shop as part of his business on the Sunshine Coast. The original 911 call was about an agitated man who sprayed a woman with a garden hose, the inquest has heard.

Campbell testified that the only information he received before getting to the scene with other firefighters was that there had been a “bear-spray incident.”

Personnel from the Burnaby fire department, BC Emergency Health Services, the Independent Investigations Office and others are expected to testify later this week.

An inquest jury isn’t able to make findings of legal responsibility but it may make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2023.

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