Witnesses testifying in front of a coroner’s inquest Monday say they saw Austin Maniyogena jump from a moving bylaw vehicle the day he died.
An inquest into Maniyogena’s death began in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, this week. Maniyogena, 22, died of a head injury while in the custody of the community’s RCMP in September 2018. He had been arrested by Kugluktuk’s bylaw officer for allegedly driving an ATV while intoxicated.
In her testimony, Andrea Koudloak said she was walking her son to school on Sept. 19, 2018, when she saw the bylaw vehicle driving along the road near the community’s hamlet office. She said her son began yelling saying a dog had jumped out of the back of the vehicle.
Koudloak said she looked up and saw the vehicle stop. She walked closer and realized it was actually a person. She said she recognized Maniyogena’s jacket, walked up to him and asked him if he knew who she was.
She said Maniyogena nodded and asked her to call his mother. She agreed.
When she was walking back from bringing her son to school, she saw Maniyogena being placed in the back of an RCMP vehicle by an RCMP officer.
Another witness, Crystal Miyok, told the inquest that she was in one of the RCMP cells when officers brought Maniyogena into the detachment. She said she overheard the officers saying he had jumped out of the bylaw vehicle.
She said officers were “really rough” with Maniyogena when they placed him into the cell opposite hers.
She recalled that he was barely moving but started screaming that he was in pain.
“He said ‘Oh my head, my head is really sore’,” Miyok told the inquest.
Miyok said she yelled at the detachment’s guard that Maniyogena needed to go to the health centre. She said the guard then walked over to her cell and told her to “just be quiet and mind your own business.”
A coroner’s inquest is mandatory for all deaths that occur in RCMP custody. It is being led by Sheldon Toner, lawyer for Nunavut’s chief coroner. Lawyers for the RCMP, Government of Nunavut and the Government of the Northwest Territories are also present and able to question witnesses.
The six-person jury is expected to hear from 17 witnesses over three days. Witnesses include RCMP officers, doctors and a head injury specialist. Jurors will then be tasked with coming up with a number of recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths in the future.