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Family of Olando Brown questions upcoming inquest into his death

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For close to six years Olando Brown's family has demanded answers in his death June 22, 2018, while in custody, following an arrest in downtown Barrie that was recorded on video and sparked outrage with concerns of police brutality.

In accordance with the Coroner's Act, a mandatory inquest into Brown's death will be held in March with the purpose of preventing further deaths of this kind.

"What is this inquest going to do for justice?" said cousin Volence Drummond. "This inquest, it is not justice; we want justice for Olando, for his family, and for all who loved him."

Brown, who was 32 at the time of his death, was found to have choked after swallowing two plastic bags the Special Investigations Unit determined he had pulled from his buttocks during a strip search at Barrie police headquarters. The bags obstructed his airway, causing his death, the police watchdog found.

Brown's family, however, is demanding justice for what they call his unnecessary death.

"It's been years, and the truth still remains hidden; it still remains unclear. We, his friends and his family, are frustrated and determined in seeking justice for Olando," said Drummond. "Olando wasn't just a name in the news. He was a loving father, brother and nephew, friend, and his death has left a void in our lives that can never be filled."

His family remains unsatisfied with the Special Investigations Unit's findings following Brown's death and what they believe is a lack of transparency and accountability for his passing.

"Olando would be heartbroken to see his family and friends still struggling for closure after so many years," argued Drummond.

"Our justice system should be better. This is Canada. As people of faith, we have forgiven those involved, but forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. The law must be upheld and those officers responsible, those officers that are giving the police force a bad reputation, a bad name; those bad apples must be held responsible and accountable. Olando's memory deserves better."

Barbara South is Olando Brown's aunt. She has maintained her nephew died and shouldn't have.

"He was taken into a room to be searched, and for his privacy, they turned the cameras off. Minutes later, they exited the room. He was dead," said South.

"It's like it happened yesterday. We are hoping that one day the officers involved will be arrested and justice will be served."

The SIU cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. Health Canada confirmed the two golfball-sized bags contained heroin, fentanyl, a painkiller and caffeine. None of the drugs in the plastic bags entered his system.

The SIU said there was no video evidence of the strip search when cameras in the room were covered for privacy reasons; however, audio recordings were released and described the events surrounding Brown's medical distress as officers and paramedics tried to save his life. Officers can be heard saying, "Spit it out; you're going to choke."

Brown's arrest along Bayfield Street in downtown Barrie was recorded hours earlier by witnesses, showing a violent takedown; police used tasers to subdue Brown and get him into custody. Witnesses told CTV News Brown was not resisting arrest; police disagreed. Loved ones said he was being arrested for an outstanding warrant following allegations of an assault.

"I don't know why they decided he needed to die that day, but his family still misses him," said South.

"He was a kind soul with dreams and aspirations, and we owe it to him to seek justice not just for his sake but the sake of his child, his family, his friends, the community of Barrie and Canada as a whole," said his cousin.

"We are committed in fighting for Olando and we won't stop until we get the truth and those responsible be held accountable. We are frustrated, but we are going to keep praying, and we know that justice will be served for Olando."

Barrie Police said it will respectfully defer comment until the inquest is complete.

The five-day inquest is scheduled to begin on March 4 and is open to the public.

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