Suspect in liquor store assaults found unresponsive in police custody; watchdog notified of death

The Surrey RCMP detachment is seen from the air in June 2019. (CTV News Vancouver)

B.C.'s police watchdog has been notified following the death of a suspect in a Surrey liquor store assault case.

Mounties say the man was found unresponsive during a regular prisoner check Friday. The man, who has not been publicly identified, appeared to be sleeping in an awkward position, the B.C. RCMP said in a news release Monday.

According to the release, the cell sergeant at the Surrey RCMP detachment tried to rouse him but could not. Officers attempted to resuscitate the man and paramedics were called, but all life-saving efforts were unsuccessful.

The province's police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, has been called to investigate the death.

The IIO is called to investigate any time an officer-related incident results in serious harm or death, regardless of if there are allegations of wrongdoing.

The civilian agency will look into whether police action or inaction played a role in the man's death.

The RCMP said the man was arrested on Canada Day, following a report that a man had assaulted two employees at a liquor store.

According to the IIO, it was a store on 138 Street near 72 Avenue. 

The watchdog was told by police that the man was put in a cell in Surrey shortly before 4:30 p.m. that day, and that he was found in medical distress at 1 p.m. the next day.

The RCMP said the man was scheduled to appear in court on the day that he died.

Anyone with relevant information is asked to contact the IIO's witness line at 1-855-446-8477. Tips can also be sent online, through a contact form on the office's website