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Subject of coroner's inquest in Courtenay had heart of gold
George Alfred Jones's sister describes him as a young, healthy, gentle soul with a heart of gold who kept to himself.
Recalling her brother's life living in Courtenay surrounded by friends and family, Debbie Darrah, her husband and family members are seeking closure to her brother's death.
Jones, 40, died after going into medical distress in January 2009 while detained in police cells in Courtenay. He was rushed to St. Joseph's General Hospital in Comox, where he died the next day.
"He was always a quiet individual who kept to himself ... he would put other people's needs before his own," said Darrah.
A public inquest is scheduled for Jones' death, confirmed the B.C. Coroners Service last week.
Darrah noted she was surprised to receive a phone call from the coroner but hopes the investigation will offer closure for the family.
"Thank God someone is looking into it," she said. "We can see exactly who is at fault. Maybe something could have been done differently — there's always been that wonder. I don't want this to happen to someone else's family."
Darrah said prior to his death, her brother — who suffered from epilepsy — had an apartment at the Washington Inn but stayed with her at her home. She said he suffered with mental issues, and many people took advantage of him.
Although he drank, Darrah notes he was not drunk or on any drugs when RCMP took him into custody after he was lying on the street near the detachment around 6 p.m. Jan. 18.
"He probably had a seizure and the police took him as drunk," she said, adding Jones did have a history with the police, who knew he suffered from epilepsy.
She said an ambulance was called to the detachment a short time after being in a cell.
"His heart rate was high. The doctor got his heart rate under control and was then moved to the ICU. Then his heart stopped."
Darrah notes she had thought about pursuing the incident further, but is grateful the coroner is organizing the inquest. She is planning to attend the hearing, where she explained a five-person jury will listen to witnesses, including RCMP members, ambulance attendees, doctors and others.
"Hopefully this will bring justice for the family. I just want them to know that this is about someone that mattered to somebody."
The inquest date has not yet been announced. An inquest is mandatory when someone dies in police custody.