Jury makes five recommendations following coroner’s inquest into Smithers man’s 2015 death

The jury classified the death accidental with “external pressure to the head [and] neck” as the cause

Jacobus Jonker, a former beloved Smithers Rugby coach, died following an incident in the Smithers RCMP detachment in February 2015. (File photo)

A jury has made several recommendations to the RCMP “E” Division (British Columbia) following a coroner’s inquest into the death of Jacobus Jonker held this week at the BC Supreme Court in Smithers.

Police first received a call concerning Jonker on the night of Feb. 14, 2015 from his 17-year-old daughter, who said her father was intoxicated and holding a gun.

Officers were dispatched to Jonker’s house on Driftwood Cres. in Smithers, where they found an intoxicated Jonker who refused to comply with their verbal demands.

After several verbal attempts to resolve the situation, Jonker rushed at Const. Ashley Vanleeuwen, the first of the RCMP members on the scene, officers testified.

Vanleeuwen used pepper spray to subdue Jonker, at which point Const. Jennifer McCreesh put him in handcuffs and took him into Vanleeuwen’s cruiser.

Jonker was taken to the RCMP detachment where he arrived shortly after 11 p.m.

After being searched and having the pepper spray removed from his eyes in the cell area, the officers brought Jonker back to the bench where they initially searched him in the detachment.

At this point he began to make comments that Vanleeuwen testified increased his risk assessment of Jonker as a potentially-violent inmate, including that the whole situation would “never make it to court.”

While the officers were attempting to guide a belligerent Jonker back into the cell, he attempted to break away from the officers and a fight ensued between Jonker and the two RCMP officers.

A civilian prison guard was also present for the events.

In a video of the struggle presented at the inquest, Vanleeuwen can be seen using a control technique on Jonker’s head and neck area, which brought him to the ground.

The struggle continued on the detachment floor as Vanleeuwen and Cpl. Dean Klubi both attempted to restrain Jonker (who continued to thrash about after hitting the ground) with Vanleeuwen restraining his head area and Klubi restraining his lower body.

After a short period of time, Klubi tapped on Vanleeuwen (who was facing in the opposite direction) to let him know Jonker was no longer resisting and to remove the hold he had him in.

Vanleeuwen testified they then noticed Jonker was unconscious and not breathing normally. The officers began chest compressions to try to revive him.

They also attempted to revive Jonker using an automated external defibrillator (AED) which analyzed his vitals and determined no shock to his body was required.

The machines cannot be manually operated, aside from being turned on and instructed to perform a scan.

An ambulance was called which arrived at approximately 11:54 p.m. and reached Bulkley Valley District Hospital (BVDH) at 11:57 p.m., where Jonker was transferred into the care of Dr. Darren Jakubec, the on-call anaesthetist that night at BVDH.

Unable to determine the cause of his injuries, Jakubec had Jonker airlifted to Victoria General Hospital (VGH), leaving BVDH at approxaimtely 5:25 a.m. and arriving at VGH’s general emergency room early the same morning.

At VGH Jonker was under the care of Dr. Peter Sherk, who testified at the inquest he believed Jonker to have been in a state of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or, in other words, the reason his brain wasn’t working was due to a sudden and unknown period of sustained low oxygen levels.

After speaking with Jonker’s family doctor and a brother living in South Africa, a consensus was reached that Jonker would not want to live in the poor neurological condition he would likely be in were he to recover and a decision was made to remove him from life support.

Jonker was pronounced dead at 4:24 p.m. on Feb. 21, 2015 at VGH.

After hearing 19 witnesses over five days, a jury of seven Smithers area residents classified the death as accidental, with “external pressure to the head [and] neck” listed as the immediate cause of death.

The jury also made five (non-binding) recommendatations:

That RCMP “E” Division (British Columbia) review handcuff removal procedure with respect to prisoner booking.

That the division considers implementing a standard Oleoresin Capsicum (pepper) Spray decontamination procedure in a secure location.

That the division requires further compliance with Section 17.1.2.3 of the “E” Division Operational Manual to ensure re-certification occurs within a prescribed time period;

That RCMP consider using this incident as a case study in their Crisis Intervention and De-Escalation (CID) training; and

That the Minister of Education, considers implementing a “Respectful Relationships Program” in the provincial school system.

For our comprehensive coverage of the inquest, see the Sept. 18 edition of The Interior News.

Just Posted

Okanagan and Shuswap blossom at Communities in Bloom awards

District of Sicamous, City of Armstrong double winners at B.C. awards gala; Lumby also a winner

Internet speed testing implemented in the CSRD

Test results will be tracked to find areas where improvement is needed.

Sicamous Eagles lose two on the road

Despite late offensive surges, the Sicamous squad came up short in Spokane and the Beaver Valley.

What financial commitments do you want from candidates running for prime minister?

As the federal election quickly approaches, the Observer took to the streets… Continue reading

In photos: Magician entertains in downtown Salmon Arm

Children of Salmon Arm were treated to the wonders of magician Leif… Continue reading

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

B.C. Lions hype-man marks 15 years of cheers

Crazy P cheers, chants, bangs his drum and spreads a message of love

Former South Okanagan resident found dead in Alberta

Candace Deleeuw was reported missing Sept. 16

PHOTOS: Steller sea lion with plastic around neck rescued on Vancouver Island

Rescue staff determined the plastic band cut the protected animal’s neck approximately two inches

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Latimer surveyed much of Summerland

Civil engineer was also responsible of community’s irrigation system

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Most Read