The B.C. Coroners Service inquest into the death of Chilliwack realtor Lindsey Harvey Gauthier started Monday with seven witnesses taking the stand.
Gauthier died in April of 2016 following an interaction with police in downtown Chilliwack. Two officers testified on day one of the inquest.
Chilliwack RCMP Constables Allison Koekman and Richard Lamerante both responded to a break-and-enter call between 12:30 and 1 a.m. the morning of Apr. 6, 2016.
Gauthier allegedly kicked in the door of a residence in the area of Yale Road and Williams Street. Koekman, who was first at the scene, testified that he allegedly tried to kick in the door of a neighbouring house first before crossing the street to this one.
Once inside, Gauthier allegedly smashed items in the home, argued with the older couple who lived there and got into a physical ‘tussle’ with the man.
Koekman described him as erratic, paranoid and incoherent, and testified that Gauthier was claiming people with guns were after him.
She also testified that the 45-year-old was “clutching his heart.”
When Const. Lamerante arrived, Koekman had him handcuffed outside of the home, and Lamerante testified that Gauthier appeared to be impaired.
“He seemed to be going through an episode, whether through drugs or mental health or a combination of both,” the officer recalled. “He was sweating profusely. He was rambling on and not making sense. He was clearly in need of medical attention.”
A paramedic who cared for him at the scene testified that Gauthier presented with rapid breathing and a high heart rate, and there was concern because his previous medical history included high blood pressure and a heart attack that he suffered four years earlier.
She said Gauthier told her he had ingested alcohol, and cocaine and amphetamines were detected in his system when he was tested at the hospital.
She testified that she did not notice him talking “jibberish” like the RCMP officers had, and she wasn’t concerned about a mental health episode.
Lamerante followed the ambulance to Chilliwack General Hospital and stayed with Gauthier until around 5 a.m. The officer testified that Gauthier was resting comfortably and wasn’t belligerent.
“He expressed remorse about the break-in and asked if the older couple was OK,” Lamerante told the inquest.
“He was very apologetic,” Koekman confirmed. “He asked if he could contact the homeowners because he wanted to pay for the damages.”
Released by police on a PTA (promise to appear), Gauthier told the officers he would be staying at the hospital awaiting test results.
But he ended up leaving soon after and died later that day.
Gauthier’s wife, Angie, was the first witness of the day and she is hoping that any recommendations from the inquest will help bring her peace of mind.
The five-day inquest is being held at the Burnaby Coroners’ Court and is being live streamed online, with a link available through the Coroners Service Inquests webpage.
Inquests are mandatory for any death that occurs while a person was detained by or in the custody of a peace officer, as Gauthier was when he died.