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Inquest starts 'healing' in wake of B.C. man's Taser death

It was a supervised parental visit in Chilliwack that went horribly wrong ending in death
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Diamond Meadows and Candice Meadows before the David Meadows Coroner's Inquest. (Candice Meadows photo)

It was a supervised parental visit in Chilliwack that went horribly and irrevocably wrong.

David Meadows of Chilliwack died on Feb. 24, 2018, on the street corner at Vedder Road near Storey Avenue, having struggled and fought with police after they deployed a conducted energy weapon, commonly called a Taser, to subdue him.

The medical cause of death was cited as: "the combined effects of methamphetamine toxicity, physical struggle, and conducted energy weapon deployment,"  according to the findings from coroner Margaret Janzen, which emerged from the Coroner's Inquest into Meadows' death held May 27 to May 31 in Burnaby.

David Meadows, 43, had panicked during the supervised visit at the Seasons Mediation and Family Services office on Vedder Road.

He tried to bolt out the door with their four-year-old daughter, Diamond in his arms, according to his wife, Candice Cardinal Meadows.

David had his daughter gripped in a "bear hug" as he zipped across four lanes of traffic, and then back again across the street, all while high on methamphetamines. A member of the public tried to grab him, while another passerby pulled the child out of his arms.

An officer had arrived and tried to deploy the weapon with prongs but it didn't work. Then David was hit by the weapon in stun-gun mode, multiple times, with his young daughter only a few metres away on the sidewalk.

The officer administered CPR but could not revive him, and he was later declared deceased in hospital.

"The fact is David never should have been allowed access to his daughter without proving sobriety," Candice said.

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David Meadows with his daughter Diamond Meadows. (Candice Meadows)

Her concerns about staff training and emergency procedures during these visits ended up being reflected in the jury's recommendations.

She is now convinced that better training requirements for staff who oversee these types of supervised parental visits would be a huge help in preventing a repeat.

"David didn't know this woman. As far as he was concerned she was stranger trying to take his kid away," Candice said.

If there was any glimmer of hope to come out of what happened on that disastrous and fateful day, she said, it will be found in the recommendations made by the jury.

It became her life's work to see changes coming forth as she prepared for the inquest from her Alberta home.

There were two specific jury recommendations from the inquest. The first was to the Attorney General of BC: "Consider drafting legislation to establish accreditation standards for businesses providing supervised parental visits. Accreditation should include standard documentation, mandatory training, and re-certification requirements. Training should include first aid, criminal record check, mental health and crisis intervention training, substance abuse awareness training, emergency response plan training."

The second recommendation was for Seasons Mediation and Family Services, which held the supervised visit:
"In absence of regulation, Seasons should implement supervised visit protocol that improves safety for all concerned including first aid training, criminal record check, mental health and crisis intervention training, and substance abuse awareness training. Seasons should implement staff safety protocol such as emergency plan preparedness, and building safety measures."

David's erratic run for freedom and subsequent death had been captured on the security footage, which was replayed at the inquest.

It was all exceedingly difficult if not traumatic for everyone involved.

For a period after it happened Candice said she had run-ins with police, and was suffering from the PTSD-like effects from the entire experience, but has since managed to find a semblance of peace about it all.

She was never quite sure why they felt they had to deploy the taser weapon to take David down, given there were four officers on-scene, and even though he was high on meth at the time.

"But I knew just how wild he could be," Candice admitted.

She had met David when they were teenagers, and it blossomed into a long-term relationship over the years.

Shortly after falling into the drug life, her handsome husband became virtually unrecognizable.

His descent was unbearable, and they separated, but she always thought they'd get back together. 

"The drug life ate him up. He was dead from it within two years." 

The point of testifying at the inquest was to start the healing, she said.

When she was on the witness stand at the inquest, she explained how they started as a family, how it all blew up as a major concern, to how he ended up in police custody.

Candice made a point of telling the mediation staffer and the police officer that she did not bear any ill will toward either of them, or fault them for what happened in any way.

She has particularly high praise for the young RCMP officer, Const. Luke Tomkinson, who was first on the scene, and the first to deploy the taser. He was there to the bitter end.

"At one point he micro-glanced at Diamond and I during the inquest, and I could tell he was having a really tough time testifying about the man who had been killed right in front of his daughter.

"I realized in that moment, 'This man really cares.'"

She sought him out, following him out of the courtroom, to tell him to his face that she understood what happened, and that he didn't have a choice.

"I told him, 'I wanted to make sure you're OK. I don't want you taking another step thinking I blame you.'"

Candice remembers them standing there together, just two people having gone through something terrible, who were reaching a new plateau.

She told him it was the last time he would have to relive that moment, and that he could resume his life.

It was the officer's heartfelt testimony that put them all on the road to healing.

"What an outstanding person. That man should be a very proud member."

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) which is the police watchdog, did not recommend charges against any of the officers, and declared the amount of force used was "reasonable."

Thinking about it weeks later, Candice said she realized it was the one officer's testimony that ultimately changed their lives for the better.

Before the inquest, she couldn't get pulled over by police without shaking uncontrollably. She'd been dealing with a deep distrust since the incident.

Now things have shifted.

"To be able to humanize police officers for us, to make us see they're just people, was a total game changer."

 



Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering city hall, Indigenous, business, and climate change stories.
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