Coroner’s inquest continues for mentally ill man who died in Ontario jail

TORONTO —  In the 11 days before Soleiman Faqiri’s death, family members tried to visit him four times, making the hour-long drive to the Ontario jail where he was being held, his brother said.

Yusuf Faqiri said he and another brother drove to the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., once, while their parents went three times.

But each time _ including on Dec. 14, 2016, a day before Soleiman Faqiri died _ they were told they couldn’t see him because he was too unwell, a coroner’s inquest into his death has heard.

“We did not know, we had no idea _ no idea _ what was going on inside,” Yusuf Faqiri said in an interview. “You’re looking at a family that was very proactive, that was hoping to give him the best treatment … and in the end, what happened?

“What more can a family do?” he said. “It’s not like my family forgot about Solei, you know. That’s the painful part.”

Soleiman Faqiri, 30, had a history of schizoaffective disorder, which combines features of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, a diagnosis he received at age 19 after a car crash, the inquest has heard.

He was detained at the facility after he was charged with aggravated assault, assault and threatening death in an incident that occurred while he was experiencing a mental-health crisis. He died in his cell less than two weeks later.

Click to play video: Family of Soleiman Faqiri speaking out

The coroner’s inquest began this week and is expected to last 15 days, ending shortly before the seventh anniversary of Faqiri’s death. On Tuesday, jurors are expected to hear testimony from Howard Sapers, the former correctional investigator of Canada, and another witness who will share her lived experience in custody.

On Monday, the inquest heard an agreed statement of facts laying out some key events that took place in the lead up to Faqiri’s death.

In that time, the inquest heard, Faqiri saw the institution’s physician and was referred to a psychiatrist, but never saw a psychiatrist, nor did he take all the doses of the medication he was prescribed. The physician also decided not to send Faqiri to a hospital for a psychiatric assessment or as an emergency patient, it heard.

His condition worsened, and his behaviour grew increasingly concerning, the inquest heard. At one point, he was smearing feces on himself.

His brother and a nurse testified in court to support an order that he undergo an assessment to determine his fitness to stand trial, the statement said. A video assessment was scheduled, but Faqiri was deemed too unwell to attend, it said.

On the day he died, Faqiri was transferred to a new cell and taken to a secure shower, the inquest heard. As he was being led, handcuffed and in his boxers, from the shower to his cell, several corrections officers said he spat at the sergeant who was holding his handcuffs, according to the statement.

The sergeant responded by slapping Faqiri, who then hunched in a ball, the statement said. He was then subjected to “various incidents of use of force” as the officers pushed him to his cell, including being struck in the head area, sprayed in the face with pepper spray foam and restrained face down on the ground, it said.

At some point, his legs were shackled and officers put a spit hood, a covering meant to prevent someone from spitting, on him, the statement said.

He was found to be unresponsive when officers removed the spit hood, the statement said.

Yusuf Faqiri said his family has long called for an inquest, but the evidence remains difficult to hear and watch.

“We loved him,” he said.

“This fight is for Solei but it’s for so many other Canadians … because I truly in my heart don’t want another mother or brother to go through what we went through.”

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