Video of Soleiman Faqiri’s final moments made public for 1st time since jail cell death | CBC News

Video of Soleiman Faqiri’s final moments made public for 1st time since jail cell death | CBC News

A crush of correctional officers clad in dark blue rush down a hallway to a tiny segregation cell where, moments later, Soleiman Faqiri would take this last breaths face-down on the floor of a jail cell, his twice pepper-sprayed face covered by a spit hood, legs and arms shackled.

The scene is just one of a 20-minute-long video of Faqiri’s final moments at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., shared for the first time at the inquest into the death of the 30-year-old who suffered from schizophrenia. The video will not be released publicly until later on Monday.

The long-awaited inquest began with a simple, yet unavoidable fact, said inquest counsel Prabhu Rajan: Faqiri should not have been behind bars.

Rather, Rajan said, he should have been at a hospital or specialized health facility.

Yet the day before he died, he wasn’t taken to the virtual assessment where court would determine if he was fit to stand trial.

“Soleiman did not go to an assessment that would have likely resulted in him receiving specialized healthcare because he was in, essentially, the midst of a psychiatric emergency,” Rajan told jurors.

“Let the irony of that sit with you for just a moment.”

The long-awaited inquest began with a simple, yet unavoidable fact, according to inquest counsel: Faqiri should not have been behind bars. Rather, he should have been at a hospital or specialized health facility. (Submitted by Yusuf Faqiri)

Guards concerned about moving Faqiri in his condition

The inquest into Faqiri’s death began Monday and is expected to last the next 15 days. Jurors were warned the details of what they would hear and witness would be disturbing.

Among those details were those laid out in an agreed statement of facts detailing Faqiri’s life before his diagnosis, his multiple apprehensions under the Mental Health Act, his arrest on Dec. 4 amid a mental health crisis in which he allegedly stabbed a neighbour, his 11 days at the jail where he was not permitted visits with family, and his violent restraint on what would be his last day.

Much of what the jury was told reflects what was reported by CBC’s The Fifth Estate in 2019 when former inmate John Thibeault, who had been housed in the cell across from Faqiri, described seeing guards violently and repeatedly strike and kick Faqiri.

Over a period of of 13 minutes from 3:03 to 3:16 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2016, the statement of facts says, Faqiri was subjected to “various incidents of use of force” including two rounds of pepper spray to the face, “multiple physical strikes” to his body and head by officers using their legs and hands.

The statement of facts also says Faqiri was restrained face-down on the floor by officers positioned on various parts of his body, covered with a spit hood, had his legs pulled up to his buttocks while positioned on his stomach, and handcuffed behind his back with leg irons and his face still covered.

Jurors also heard of tensions among jail staff, who raised concerns about transferring Faqiri from a shower to his jail cell without the assistance of a specialized unit.

WATCH | Former inmate tells CBC’s The Fifth Estate he’s haunted by Faqiri’s death:

A former inmate speaks out about a day that haunts him

Featured VideoJohn Thibeault says he saw jail guards beat Soleiman Faqiri

Inside the showers, jurors heard, Faqiri, who had been deemed “too unwell” to be seen by his family the day before, squirted shampoo and soap at the jail staff. Correctional officers put a shield between themselves and the shower to keep from being splashed and no other issues were reported.

Staff worried about transferring Faqiri to his cell themselves, but it was decided a specialized unit would not be called. Instead, health care staff coaxed him into handcuffs with promises of food and a copy of the Qur’an when he got to his cell. Faqiri complied and was cuffed through the door.

‘F–k it, I’ll just move him myself’: operations manager

While Faqiri waited in a “bent, uncomfortable position” to be moved, correctional officers continued raising concerns about moving him.

Eventually, the statement says, an operational manager said “something to the effect of, ‘f–k it, I’ll just move him myself.'”

The statement goes on to say a health care manager “was surprised to see that the escort was beginning, the available wheelchair was not being used and they were proceeding before everyone was ready.”

Faqiri was pulled from the shower by his cuffs wearing only boxers and with bare feet, slipping on the wet floor, guards putting their hands on him to keep him from falling.

The operational manager along with five guards then walked a barely-clothed Faqiri down the hallway in cuffs, coming into view of the camera, where the footage begins.

Faqiri is thought to have spat on the manager, who proceeds to slap him twice in the face or head. Faqiri is then seen hunching toward the ground as officers push him toward his cell.

Blood smears were among the hundreds of photos of the scene taken by investigators following Faqiri’s death and obtained by The Fifth Estate.
There is no footage of what took place inside the cell. These blood smears were among the hundreds of photos of the scene taken by investigators following Faqiri’s death and obtained by CBC’s The Fifth Estate. (Kawartha Lakes Police Service)

As they near the cell, an officer pepper sprays Faqiri in the face. Faqiri is then pushed inside the cell, with all of the escort team entering the 2.5 by 5-metre cell.

There is no video of what happens inside the cell as the rest of the altercation takes place, with the statement describing “the officer group striking Mr. Faqiri multiple times” in the legs and at least twice in the head, with one officer possibly placing a knee on his neck. Faqiri is then pepper-sprayed a second time, the statement says.

‘Officers became tired from the use of force’

A Code Blue is called, with at least a dozen officers seen rushing toward the cell, some entering it, others waiting outside.

“Officers took turns holding Mr. Faqiri to the ground inside cell B-10 while other officers congregated in the hallway. Officers became tired from the use of force. When they did, they stepped out and were replaced by a fresh officer from the hallway.”

At 3:10, officers begin emerging from the cell. The final officer left the cell at 3:15 and the door closed.

A minute later, an operations manager notices Faqiri isn’t breathing, the statement says. The cell is reopened, the spit hood, now filled with fluid, is removed.

Faqiri is unresponsive by this point, never to be revived.

A label on the packaging of the particular spithood used on Soleiman Faqiri before his death states:
A label on the packaging of the particular spit hood used on Faqiri before his death states: ‘Warning: Improper use of TranZport Hood can cause injury or death,’ the label reads. ‘Improper use may cause asphyxiation, suffocation or drowning in one’s own fluids.’ (Court documents)

The video ends with paramedics arriving on scene.

Faqiri’s cause of death, previously deemed unascertained, was later deemed to be restraint in a face-down position and injuries from his struggle with guards. No charges were ever laid in his death.

Jurors will hear from approximately 20 witnesses over the course of the inquest, and will be asked to determine the circumstances of his death. They may also make recommendations to prevent similar deaths. The recommendations are not binding.

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