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Inquest into Barrie, Ont., man's death while in police custody reveals dramatic details

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Warning: Details in this article may be disturbing to readers.

The inquest into the death of Olando Brown while in police custody in June 2018 in Barrie unfolded on Monday, with testimony shedding light on his final hours.

Barrie police Sgt. Bill Grant was the first to testify Monday morning, explaining he was on duty in plain clothes when he attempted to apprehend Brown in downtown Barrie on Bayfield Street. The officer said Brown was thought to be dealing drugs and that he resisted arrest.

The struggle to take Brown into custody was captured on cell phone video by bystanders, including the moment officers used a stun gun on the 32-year-old man.

Once in custody, police brought Brown to the station, where two officers conducted a full body search. The video camera was covered for Brown's privacy, but the audio continued to record.

Sgt. Grant described Brown's initially calm demeanour shifting, recalling he became fidgety during the search.

"He turned around and reached into his bottom area and grabbed a package out and jammed it in his mouth, deep, deep. It was fully into his mouth ... deep in his mouth," Sgt. Grant said.

The veteran officer said he and the other officer in the room jumped into action, trying to dislodge the then-unknown object, believing it could be drugs.

"I was concerned that he was going to die, so I grabbed his throat and said spit it out, spit it out, spit it out," Sgt. Grant testified, adding, "It was like a choke-hold on his throat so it would save his life."

Sgt. Grant said they did the Heimlich and CPR, but could not get Brown to cough up the object before he became limp.

"We laid him down," Sgt. Grant recalled.

Paramedics attended and performed CPR and used a defibrillator before transferring Brown to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"It was a lot of people there working on Mr. Brown, trying to save him," the officer recalled.

Retired staff sergeant Linda Moorhouse, who was in charge that day, told the inquest, "It was a very chaotic, fast-moving, pivoting scene."

Moorhouse called the situation tragic. "I think everything was done that could have been at the time. I think every effort was made to the best of our abilities."

Health Canada confirmed the two golfball-sized bags Brown put in his mouth contained heroin, fentanyl, a painkiller and caffeine. None of the drugs in the plastic bags entered his system.

The inquest is expected to call seven witnesses and take five days. The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar circumstances.

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