The most senior officer on the scene when a burglary suspect died in the back of a police van has told how he did not class him as a ‘high-risk detainee’.
Inspector Richard Bills responded to an incident at a flat in Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, in December 2014, amid fears it could escalate into a siege because a ‘wide-eyed’ man, Adrian McDonald, originally from Dalton had barricaded himself inside a room.
He arrived to find 34-year-old Mr McDonald – who had been tasered and twice bitten by a police dog – walking down stairs at the property and on his way to the waiting police van.
Insp Bills said: “When I arrived there was no need for me to intervene and start to micro-manage as a senior officer was on the scene.”
Sgt Jason Bromley was in charge of the incident and went back to the flat for a number of minutes while Mr McDonald sat in the police van.
Pc Jonathan Tench was standing next to the police van and watched Mr McDonald through the windows at the back of the van.
Mr McDonald, who lived in Stoke-on-Trent, pleaded for water and complained that he was struggling to breathe before suffering a fatal cardiac arrest within six minutes of getting in the van.
All three officers are facing a charge of gross misconduct brought by Staffordshire Police.
A medical expert has already ruled Mr McDonald would still have died even if he had received medical assistance from the officers.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) – which has brought the gross misconduct case against the three officers – has suggested Pc Tench believed Mr McDonald was putting on a ‘ruse’ before he tried to escape.
A disciplinary tribunal today heard Insp Bills did not hear Pc Tench’s radio message raising concerns over Adrian’s wellbeing.
Insp Bills added: “I had not picked up the radio message that Mr McDonald, who was handcuffed, was in difficulty.
“I did not consider Mr McDonald to fit the description of a high-risk detainee. He did seem paranoid and agitated but Mr McDonald was talking, walking and conscious so I did not consider him to be high risk. He sat in the van and appeared to relax.
“I did not hear Pc Tench say that Mr McDonald could not breathe. I do not remember being at the rear of the van but the body-worn camera does show me there.”
All three officers deny the gross misconduct charge. The tribunal was adjourned until Monday at 2pm.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) asked prosecutors to consider charges against the officers following its investigation.
But last month the Crown Prosecution Service said there was “insufficient” evidence for a “realistic prosecution”.