Toronto police officers who were called to check on a man found slumped in a store alcove near a downtown hotel did not act to ensure his airway was open so he could breathe, a coroner’s inquest into the 2015 death of Brad Chapman heard Monday.
It was the opening day of the inquest, presided over by Dr. David Eden at the coroner’s office, which is expected to hear from 23 witnesses over the next two weeks as it delves into areas such as first aid training and responsibility for police, services for those with substance addictions and the delay in identifying Chapman and locating his next of kin.
Prabhu Rajan, the coroner’s chief counsel, said during his address to the five-person jury that a pair of 52 Division officers called to the scene near the Chelsea Hotel “did not take steps to ensure (Chapman’s) airway was open.”
On Monday, Det. Const. James Mackrell testified that he and his partner were dispatched to a storefront on Walton St. around 5 a.m. on Aug. 18, 2015, after a hotel security officer phoned police to report his concerns about a man — Chapman — collapsed in the alcove.
Mackrell told the inquest that when officers arrived on scene, they saw Chapman, 43, in a semi-seated position with his shoulders pressing against a store wall; his head hanging down with his chin on his chest; and that they could not rouse him from a “semi-conscious” state despite shining a flashlight in his eyes, shaking his shoulders, speaking to him and tapping his feet. Mackrell testified that a bottle of Crown Royal was found near Chapman, as was a syringe, a spoon and a lighter.
Mackrell also testified that Chapman was breathing on his own when officers arrived and after about two and a half minutes of trying to rouse him unsuccessfully, they called for an ambulance. The inquest heard it took about 11 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.
Rajan told the inquest that one paramedic is expected to testify that when she spotted Chapman from the ambulance, she recognized he was in cardiac arrest and that when she assessed him she found he was “vital signs absent.”
“I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it,” Mackrell testified on learning from the paramedic that Chapman had no vital signs. “He’d just been breathing.”
Chapman, a father of three, was resuscitated in the ambulance, but died Aug. 26 in Toronto General Hospital when life support was removed. He’d been a John Doe until two days before his death.
In one exchange with Mackrell, Rajan asked if the position of Chapman’s head “slumped forward, leaning towards his chest” had raised “any concerns for you?”
Mackrell responded: “At the time, he was still breathing.”
Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org