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One year after inmate’s death, lawyer said it’s time for police update

Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's. TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO
Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's. SaltWire Network file photo

Bob Buckingham calling for public inquiry, asking Indigenous leaders to get involved

It’s been a year to the day since Jonathan Henoche was found dead in a segregation unit cell at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s after an altercation with corrections officers.

Since then there’s been no update provided to Henoche’s family on the police investigation into the death, and their lawyer Bob Buckingham is demanding one.

“It is time the public and the family be informed how the police investigation is progressing,” Buckingham said in a statement released Friday.

“I am aware this was a significant investigation including interviews with numerous witnesses, reviewing penitentiary security tapes, assessing the forensic evidence and obtaining opinion on the law, but sufficient time has passed for a comment to be made.”

Henoche — who was on remand awaiting his first-degree murder trial in the death of 88-year-old Regula Schule of Happy Valley-Goose Bay — died on Nov. 6, 2019, in what police deemed was a homicide.

He died following an incident that broke out during lunch hour at around 12:30 p.m. that day in unit 2B, the protective custody unit, at the St. John’s prison, The Telegram learned.

It reportedly started when Henoche made physical contact with a female corrections officer’s arm, and that led to a “smack-for-smack” fight between corrections officers and Henoche.

Shortly after, multiple staff members swarmed the unit.

A source had told The Telegram there was so much blood in the area, an outside agency had to be called in to clean it up.

Two corrections officers — a woman and a man — were sent to the medical unit, while Henoche was handcuffed behind his back and brought to segregation, the source said.

Once in segregation, Henoche was reportedly kicking corrections officers, which prompted them to put iron leg restraints on him.

When they checked on him five minutes later, the source said, he wasn’t breathing. Medical staff tried to revive him, administering CPR for about 40 minutes, but couldn’t revive him.

The province’s justice system confirmed to The Telegram at the time that police are investigating.

However, police have not released any information since then.

That’s unacceptable said Buckingham, who represents Henoche’s family and estate.

“Mr. Henoche’s family is under considerable stress and deserve answers. This is a particularly difficult day for them.”

Buckingham has also called on Indigenous leaders in the province to become more vocal surrounding the Henoche case, and to ask questions as to whether racism in our correctional services played any part in it.

Buckingham said he has re-issued his early request for a public inquiry into Henoche’s death, including the circumstances around his death, the role racism may have played, the adequacy of training of correctional officers in dealing with inmates who have mental health and related issues, and the source of information about the homicide which, he said, was released to the media by Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees’ (NAPE) president Gerry Earle.

Buckingham has questioned whether there was a breach of security protocol at the penitentiary and wants to see this investigated as part of an overall inquiry.

“Mr. Henoche has been the only person who died by homicide in any of Newfoundland’s provincial correctional facilities,” Buckingham said. “He was an indigenous man. Correctional officers are under investigation for his homicide.”

The Telegram has contacted RNC today and is waiting for a response.

When contacted by The Telegram recently, Lloyd Strickland, director of the province’s public prosecution, confirmed the RNC has been in contact with his office about the case. He said officers have been working diligently and that the investigation has been progressing. He said the decision of whether or not to lay charges was to be made soon.

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Twitter: @TelyRosie

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