Inquest probes death in Penticton RCMP cells

Guards on duty as prisoner lay dead say visual checks didn't raise any concerns about Steven Joseph Scott

Steven Joseph Scott

Steven Joseph Scott

Two guards who were on duty while a prisoner lay dead in his cell at the Penticton RCMP detachment told a coroner’s inquest Monday that frequent visual checks of the lifeless victim didn’t raise any alarms.

Steven Joseph Scott died Aug. 10, 2012, a day after he was arrested for causing a disturbance at a Penticton home.

An autopsy revealed the 30-year-old, of no fixed of address, died around 2 a.m. after choking on his own vomit.

However, the inquest heard his death wasn’t discovered until around 10:40 a.m., when an RCMP officer went to Scott’s cell to wake him.

Kirsten Wehrmann, the lone civilian jail guard on duty for a 12-hour shift that ended at 6 a.m. on Aug. 10, told the inquest her duties were generally restricted to feeding and monitoring inmates, since she wasn’t permitted to enter cells without an RCMP officer present.

On the shift in question, she said, the detachment’s watch commander, Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth, personally checked on Scott several times in his cell to ensure he was OK following repeated complaints about difficulty breathing and low blood sugar.

Wehrmann, who was fired a month after the incident, said she observed Scott throughout the night by watching a video feed from his cell and looking through a window in his cell door.

However, she said the window was damaged, making it difficult to see through, and Scott was wrapped in a blanket, so it was hard to tell if he was breathing.

She said she watched Scott finally lay down between midnight and 1 a.m. and assumed he had fallen asleep.

Neil Eshleman, the guard who relieved Wehrmann at 6 a.m., said his visual checks of Scott also revealed nothing untoward, so he didn’t try to rouse Scott to ensure his well-being.

“As long as (prisoners) are peaceful and they’re calm, you try to leave them be,” said Eshleman, a retired Mountie who was suspended following the incident and then later quit.

Eshleman acknowledged, however, that the fact Scott didn’t move for several hours should have alerted him something was wrong.

Const. Ryan Shedden told the inquest  Scott had recently been taken from cells to the Penticton hospital for treatment of an unspecified medical issue that prevented him from serving a weekend sentence.

Jon Cairns, who was in jail with Scott hours before he died, testified he heard Scott bang on his nearby cell door and call out for help because he was having trouble breathing.

An RCMP officer or guard then told Scott, “You’re not getting of doing another weekend,” and advised him to go to sleep, Cairns recalled.

“From what I heard, I was disgraced. I was even yelling at them. I was like, ‘Get him some friggin’ help!’” said Cairns.

Corners’ inquests are not meant to find fault, but rather determine the facts related to a death; make recommendations to prevent future deaths in similar cases; and make sure a death isn’t concealed, ignored or overlooked.

Witness testimony is expected to continue through Wednesday morning at the Penticton courthouse, after which the five-member jury will begin its deliberations.



Just Posted

New trial date set in Penticton for Thomas Kruger-Allen’s triple assault charges

May trial was delayed after Crown witnesses failed to show up

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Thompson-Okanagan population grew despite COVID-19: report

The Chartered Professional Accountants of BC said there are 8,462 new residents in the region

Scales of Justice
Acquittal in Okanagan crash that killed vacationing dentist

Daerio Romeo, 29, was charged with dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm

Renderings of what the skating rink could look like beside City Hall between Martin and Main in downtown Penticton. (Activate Penticton image)
Penticton to get outdoor ice rink this winter

It’s hoped the rink will be ready to host 2022 BCHL’s 60th year celebration

The fate of Skaha Marina and its operations will be decided Saturday, June 19 on general election day. (File photo)
Penticton city hosted last forum before voters decide on fate of Skaha Marina

Residents share concerns about length of operations agreement, parking and control of park

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Vernon-Monashee NDP MLA Harwinder Sandhu supported a motion in the B.C. legislature for Canada to create a national Indigenous History month Monday, June 13, 2021. (Contributed)
Canada needs a national Indigenous History Month, Vernon MLA agrees

Harwinder Sandhu supports motion to recognize June as month to advance reconciliation efforts with First Nations

Orange ribbons are tied to the fence outside Vernon’s Gateway Homeless Shelter on 33rd Street. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
POLL: Low-key Canada Day in the works for Vernon

Councillor calling for Indigenous recognition for 2022

A conceptual design of Vernon’s new Active Living Centre, which will go to referendum Oct. 15, 2022. (Rendering)
Active living centre 2022 referendum planned in Vernon

City hoping to get Coldstream and Areas B and C back on board

Closure of the 2900 block of 30th Avenue will allow restaurants and other businesses to extend their patios onto the street. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Green light given to downtown Vernon road closure

Single block of 30th Avenue to close over summer months to boost business

Graduating Grade 12 student Savannah Lamb has been awarded an approximate $40,000 scholarship from the Beedie Luminaries foundation. (Contributed)
Dedicated Salmon Arm student earns scholarship to pursue post-secondary education

Savannah Lamb is graduating from Salmon Arm Secondary with a $40,000 scholarship

A provided photo of the suspect. (Kelowna RCMP/Contributed)
Kelowna RCMP investigating after business robbed

An undisclosed amount of money and merchandise were taken from the business

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

Most Read