Day 2 of the inquest concludes with testimony from RCMP officer
Constable Michal Page who was with the Onion Lake RCMP detachment at the time of Randy Wolfe’s passing was the first representative of the RCMP to testify at the inquest.
Cst. Page spoke on the night Randy Wolfe was arrested and how he was booked into the jail cell at the RCMP detachment.
Page said he continued to be on patrol throughout the night following Wolfe’s. When he returned to the detachment just before 8:00 am he was informed by the prison guard that Randy Wolfe was unresponsive in his cell.
He says he saw no signs of breathing, yelled for help, entered the cell, and then called for EMS. When he left to call emergency services – he says three other officers began attending to Wolfe, an AED was also brought in, and officers began performing CPR.
Robin Ritter asked Page about policy changes that have come into affect since Wolfe’s death and Page spoke on wide spreading policy changes in the RCMP, but couldn’t provide any specific policy changes related to the death of Randy Wolfe.
Page was asked about training he has received since becoming an RCMP officer and he listed off a list of areas he has been trained. However, he says he has never received any training in regard to recognizing drug use and overdose – specifically opioids and crystal meth. When asked if he would like to receive that type of training he said “yes.”
Page also spoke on some of the other individuals in the car who were arrested with Randy Wolfe. Earlier in the inquest, Kevin Adrian of the Moose Jaw Police Service testified all but one of these passengers were released before he arrived at Onion Lake.
Page believes there may be a discrepancy as he remembers that the Moose Jaw police officers were already there when he interviewed one of the passengers as he says the third-party investigation took precedence over his own, so he would have had to get their permission to interview one of the passengers. Page says the passenger he interviewed was released after his interview.
There was conflicting testimony on this matter as Page says Moose Jaw police were in Onion Lake on October 12, but Moose Jaw police testified earlier in the inquest that they did not arrive in the community until October 13.
When presented with this by coroner’s counsel he admitted he could have been mistaken.
Page also spoke on mental health support he received from the RCMP since the incident, which he says is common in larger files with traumatic outcomes.
At the beginning of his testimony, when asked what recommendations the jury could provide to prevent similar deaths in the future he said “nothing comes to mind.” When coroner’s counsel Robin Ritter returned to this question at the end of his testimony, Page agreed more training around drugs like crystal meth and opioids for officers and guards would be helpful.
Page was also questioned by counsel for Randy Wolfe’s family and asked about Watch Guard video footage in RCMP vehicles. Page says some RCMP vehicles at Onion Lake did not have Watch Guard footage installed in 2019 as there was a general roll out of the system throughout the province at the time. The RCMP constable says when activated Watch Guard footage always have the date and time watermarked on the footage.
The inquest was then adjourned until Wednesday.
Tuesday afternoon sees testimony from forensic pathologist, head guard at the detachment
Dr. Shaun Ladham was the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Randy Wolfe. Dr. Ladham was recognized by the inquest as an expert witness.
He confirmed that Randy Wolfe’s cause of death was a lethal dose of both alcohol and crystal meth.
There was some discussion between Dr. Ladham and counsel for Randy Wolfe’s family about RCMP members being present at the autopsy. Ladham says it is normal for police officers to attend an autopsy and wouldn’t provide opinion on if the RCMP should have been at Randy Wolfe’s autopsy when he died in their custody.
The inquest then heard from Teresita Smith, the head guard at the Onion Lake RCMP detachment who has worked there for over a decade.
Smith testified on the shadow procedure during training where a new guard will shadow an experienced guard to learn how to do the job. The training guard will then answer any questions a trainee my have about the written prison guard policy.
However, she did say guard working hours have changed since Randy Wolfe’s death with three ten hour shifts each day with guards shifts overlapping by two hours at the beginning and end of each shift.
She did speak on new policy and procedures that have come in since Randy Wolfe’s passing. However, none of them seemed to be in response to the circumstances around Wolfe’s death. The new policy’s included female individuals allowed to keep their bras unless they are suicidal, and that all individuals taken to the jail cell are informed they are video recorded.
Smith also spoke on the relationship between the Commissionaires and the RCMP. The Commissionaires employ the prison guards and the RCMP hire them on contract, however, policy on how they operate in their jobs come from the RCMP.
Coroner’s counsel Robin Ritter questioned her on what he saw as an increase of opioid and crystal meth drug use over the past ten years and Smith says she agreed with this saying they see a lot of crystal meth use at Onion Lake.
“When I started ten years ago, I had no clue what fentanyl and crystal meth was,” Smith told the inquest.
When asked by Ritter about training, Smith agreed more “would be nice” saying they have never received any training on drug use and overdose.
Smith also says she was never officially trained by an RCMP officer. She also confirmed other guard testimony that guards at the detachment need to contact a member of the RCMP if they need to contact emergency medical services.
However, Smith says it is in policy for prison guards to do window checks every 15 minutes and not just checks on the monitors.
She also provided contradictory testimony from the other prison guards saying that First Aid is required by the RCMP for all prison guards and that they would pay for the training. The others said they had received first aid training on their own, but it wasn’t required by the RCMP.
The inquest was then paused for a brief adjournment.
Guard on shift the night Randy Wolfe passed away provides testimony
The inquest then heard from Byron Wolfe – the prison guard on shift the night Randy Wolfe passed away. The two men have been identified as cousins.
The inquest has heard testimony from Kevin Adrian, the lead investigator in Randy Wolfe’s death, who says in conversations he had with Byron Wolfe, the prison guard felt he was undertrained in his role.
Byron says he started working as a part time prison guard in July 2018. Wolfe says he took a month off after Randy Wolfe died, but now works as a grater operator.
As for training, Wolfe testified he received on the job training from another prison guard and never received any official training from an RCMP officer. He also says he never received any training about signs of alcohol withdrawal or drug overdose.
Wolfe says he read the prison guard policy book when he first started the job in 2018 and re-read it after Randy Wolfe has passed away. He also says he had First Aid training that expired when he started working at the detachment, but wasn’t required to renew the training when he started working with the RCMP.
The prison guard then testified on Randy Wolfe being booked and taken to a cell the night he died. According to Byron Wolfe, he did a window check or a monitor check on Randy Wolfe’s cell many times, every 15 minutes, during the night. He says there is no policy to determine whether someone should do a window check or a monitor check.
The lead investigator in Randy Wolfe’s death testified that Wolfe appeared to suffer a seizure around 2:30 am and stopped moving after that point. Byron Wolfe told the inquest Randy Wolfe’s position did not seem to move for several hours. He says at one point he stood for a while checking him and testified, he thought he saw his hands moved, so he thought he was okay.
When the other prison guard came in for the morning shift, both of them checked on Randy Wolfe’s cell and when Randy would not respond to audible cues the two guards determined something was wrong then informing RCMP officers at the detachment.
When asked directly by counsel for the family if he felt he was properly trained, he said no.
Wolfe was also asked if there was any racial tensions at the detachment and he said “no”
Paramedic who responded to the call testifies
The inquest then heard from Cheyanna Wakowitch, Paramedic who was called to the scene when Randy Wolfe was found unresponsive in his cell on the morning of October 12.
She says RCMP officers were performing CPR on Wolfe when she arrived.
Wakowitch says when she assessed Wolfe there were signs of no brain activity and that rigor mortis was settingin. They also set up a monitor and found no heart activity.
At this point, Wolfe was declared deceased at the scene.
When questioned by counsel for the RCMP, Wakowitch says she was unaware that Wolfe had consumed drugs prior to his death. Also spoke on Narcan, which is used to treat opioid overdose, but she says Narcan is not used to treat people who have taken crystal meth.
Joch Kreigler, counsel for Randy Wolfe’s family, asked about the possibility of using beta blocker type drugs to treat crystal meth overdose. In response, Wakowitch says that type of drug would help, but says as a primary care paramedic she would not be able to administer that drug as it would require the assistance of advanced care paramedics usually situated in Lloydminster.
Wakowitch also spoke on her experience of people using both alcohol and crystal meth and says they can project varying degrees of symptoms, but says people can show signs of crystal meth use very quickly.
Inquest hears from guard who found Wolfe unresponsive in his cell
The first witness at the inquest on Tuesday morning was Sylvia Pahtayken who was the guard who discovered Wolfe unresponsive in his cell when she began her shift in the morning of October 12.
Earlier testimony said the night shift guard, Byron Wolfe, did a window check on Randy Wolfe multiple times, but didn’t notice anything was wrong. According to testimony, guards are not allowed to enter the cells for safety reasons.
According to testimony on Monday from lead investigator Kevin Adrian, Byron Wolfe said he felt he was under trained for his job.
Pahtayken spoke on her training and says she received a couple days of training when she first began working at the detachment three months before Wolfe’s death. One of her trainers was Byron Wolfe. Pahtayken also spoke on a guard policy book they are required to read at the beginning of their employment with a commitment to read it around once per year. She says they are trained to look for signs of breathing during their window checks including snoring, and a rising and falling chest.
Pahtayken also testified she has never received any official training from an RCMP officer, has not received training since her first couple days, and that no policy changes have been implemented since Wolfe passed away.
Another thing Pahtayken testified on is when a guard is alone in the detachment she says they are not allowed to call emergency medical services if a problem arises and must call an RCMP officer first.
The witness then told the inquest about finding Wolfe unresponsive in the cell when she began her shift and the situation that followed, which included attempts to save Randy Wolfe’s life including an AED being deployed.
She spoke on being trained in First Aid, but says that was training she pursued on her own and wasn’t required by the RCMP.
She also testified that Byron Wolfe was upset and, in her words, “in shock” when Randy Wolfe was found to have passed away.
When asked by coroner’s counsel robin Ritter on what recommendations she could provide the jury she spoke on extra things she started doing as a guard since Wolfe’s death, but says these things weren’t asked of her by the RCMP.
Day 2 of the public inquest into the death of Randy Wolfe at the Onion Lake RCMP continues on Tuesday.
The first testimony of the day should begin at 10:30 Saskatchewan time.
According to coroner’s counsel several witnesses are planned for the day as the jury only heard from two witnesses on Monday.
Updates can be found here throughout the day.
A full recap of day 1 of the inquest can be found here.
(PHOTO – The Lloydminster Agricultural Exhibition Association building where the inquest is taking place. Photo by Joel Willick.)