Man died following ‘violent struggle’ with WYP officers, inquest hears
A joiner shouted “they’re killing me” before he died in hospital following a “violent struggle” with officers from West Yorkshire Police (WYP), a coroner has told a jury.
Father-of-three Andrew Hall was originally taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in September 2016 after taking a large amount of alcohol and prescribed drugs, an inquest in Bradford heard on Thursday.
But the 43-year-old was arrested by officers from WYP and taken to the police station after slapping a nurse, assistant coroner Oliver Longstaff said.
Addressing a jury at the opening of the inquest, Mr Longstaff described how Mr Hall was initially cooperative in the cells but, after a nurse began assessing his condition, he said a violent struggle ensued with a number of officers attempting to restrain him.
The coroner said the whole incident was captured on CCTV, which will be shown during the inquest, and he described in detail how this showed up to six officers struggling with Mr Hall, delivering a number of punches and knee strikes.
Describing one part of the footage, Mr Longstaff said: “Andrew’s grip is eventually released and Andrew then appears to attack Officer D, throwing punches, and Officer D then punches Andrew back, possibly up to five times.
“Officer E delivers a sweeping leg kick at Andrew’s lower right leg but this appears to have no impact or effect upon Andrew.”
Mr Longstaff said an officer could be heard at one point shouting “give up now” and one also says “take him down”.
The coroner said that, at one point, Mr Hall strikes his head on the floor a number of times and an officer brings a pillow, holding his head on it on the floor.
He told the jury: “Without doubt, the struggle can be described neutrally as violent. And you will see up to six officers are trying to control Andrew.”
He said: “You will be able to make up your own mind whether use of force of any type was required, reasonable and appropriate.”
Mr Longstaff said: “Andrew was a large man and the CCTV footage shows that he was strong enough to resist attempts by several officers to move him against his will.
“You will be able to decide on the apparent power or lack of power in the delivery of any strikes. And you will be able the hear the explanations as to why these strikes or blows are delivered.”
The coroner went on to describe how Mr Hall was eventually double-handcuffed and put in leg restraints before he was taken back to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on a stretcher.
Mr Longstaff said Mr Hall was lying face down on a trolley being restrained by several police officers when he was examined at the hospital.
He said: “Andrew was still struggling. At this point Andrew was seen to be sweating profusely, spitting and screaming for help, shouting ‘they’re killing me’.”
The coroner said doctors noted Mr Hall had “apparent injuries” and were concerned about possible brain injuries.
He said witnesses said he was “so distressed and disorientated he did not appear to understand what was being said to him”.
A decision was taken to sedate Mr Hall, from Dalton, Huddersfield, so further medical examinations could be completed and its was after his sedation that he went into cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated.
It was later found that he had a undiagnosed severe heart condition, the coroner said.
He told the jury how four pathologists agreed that Mr Hall’s cause of death was “multi-factorial” and potential causes included heart disease, ingestion of alcohol and drugs including co-codamol and amitriptyline, the stress of the events at the hospital and police station, his weight, as well as the restraint by the officers.
He told the panel: “You will need to come to your own conclusions.”
The coroner told the jury he had been challenged by Leslie Thomas QC, representing Mr Hall’s family, about his reference to Mr Hall as a “large man”.
He said that “in attributing the manner in which police restrained Mr Hall to his size” the barrister was concerned that the coroner had “perpetuated racist tropes or stereotypical descriptions of black men generally”.
Mr Longstaff assured the jury that his summary of the evidence did not include his own opinions and added: “It is a matter for you, in due course, whether the description of Mr Hall given in evidence by any particular witness is objectively accurate or whether it is motivated by any inappropriate preconceived attitudes to black men such as Mr Hall himself.”
The jury has been told that the police officers giving evidence will not be identified. The inquest is expected to take up to ten weeks.
Mr Hall’s partner, Natalie Dyer, told the inquest: “Andrew was a loving, caring and a considerate man who lived to be with his family.”
She said: “As a family, we don’t understand how this could have happened to Andrew.
“All we want as a family now is for people to be truthful about what happened to Andrew and for no-one else to go through what Andrew went through.”
Ms Dyer said she wanted answers to the “many question that we have”.