Inquest calls for changes
Among the recommendations from a coroner's jury following the three-day inquest is for the police, "(To) establish a policy that all persons in a questionable state of mind to be medically evaluated by a physician before they are placed in cells or holding tanks."
McLeod had been celebrating New Year's Eve with friends when he ended up at a house party where he was involved in one, perhaps two altercations. After being called to the scene by a neighbour, police found McLeod conscious and on the ground outside the residence.
According to information released at the inquest, McLeod walked into the Inuvik RCMP detachment and was locked in a cell at approximately 4:20 a.m. Jan. 1, 2004. At 1:24 p.m., an officer tried to wake him but McLeod was unresponsive. After being taken to Inuvik Regional Hospital for examination, McLeod was airlifted to University of Alberta where he died Jan. 2.
Examiners determined the cause of death was due to blunt cranial trauma, however, where and when McLeod sustained the injury that led to his death remain a mystery.
Evidence was introduced at the inquest that McLeod may have sustained the fatal injury when he fell backwards into the wall while in the holding cell. Before deliberating and presenting 14 recommendations to the coroner, the jury heard from 13 witnesses.
As well as mandatory medical examinations for all detainees, the jury recommended that all detainees have a blood-alcohol level test prior to admission as behaviour of those with head injuries can be similar to that of an intoxicated person.
Staff Sgt. Sid Gray of the Inuvik detachment called the recommendations 'reasonable' but would not offer further comment.
While the jury's recommendations are not legally binding, NWT Chief Coroner Percy Kinney said the police have a, "Moral and ethical obligation to follow the recommendations."
McLeod's sister Laura Cardinal is unhappy with police efforts in the matter and is planning to take legal action.
"The family is not satisfied and as far as we're concerned we're going to a lawyer," said Cardinal, adding that there should have been a better investigation.
Cardinal also questioned the need to lock up her brother.
"He was a kind and gentle man, why didn't (the police) just bring him home?" Cardinal asked after the inquest. "I can't rest until I know what happened to Buster, if they were neglectful."
- With files from Dez Loreen