A former inmate in northern B.C. has launched a lawsuit against two B.C. corrections officers, claiming they ignored calls for help as a fellow inmate was dying in the back of a van during an involuntary transfer to another facility.
According to documents filed on Monday (June 22), Gordon Michael Hansen was one of at least two inmates being “involuntarily transferred” from Prince George to a detention facility in the Lower Mainland on Oct. 4, 2018, when a fellow inmate allegedly ingested something and “appeared to pass out and slide off the bench.”
Hansen alleges he tried to help the inmate, who was unresponsive, while the other inmates in the van pounded on the walls and shouted for help. The lawsuit claims the two corrections officers upfront – named in the civil suit as James Brown and Bruce Cox – did not pull over. It’s believed they were just south of Quesnel at the time.
“The corrections officers’ only response to the shouting and pounding was to slam on the brakes and make the inmates fall,” the court documents read, going on to allege that the pair stopped the van for coffee in Williams Lake but didn’t check on the inmates.
The van continued down Highway 97 with the officers finally stopping about 50 kilometres south of Williams Lake, Hansen claims. A passerby stopped and performed CPR but was unable to resuscitate the inmate. Paramedics arrived 40 minutes later.
Hansen alleges Brown and Cox “breached their duty of care” to him by failing to responds to the “repeated calls for help.”
Meanwhile, the former inmate is claiming that as operator of the corrections facility, the province allowed the two officers to operate the corrections van “when they knew, or should have known, that they lacked the proper skill, training and experience to properly operate the corrections van.”
Hansen claims he suffered personal psychological and emotional harm from the incident and continues to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as well as insomnia and nervous shock.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. The defendants had not filed responses to the claim as of Wednesday at noon.
According to news reports shortly after the death of the inmate – identified as Alex Joseph – the BC Coroners Service, B.C. Corrections and RCMP launched investigations into the incident. The inmates were being transferred to Fraser Regional Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge.
Black Press Media has reached out to both the province and the union representing correctional officers for comment.
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