Witnesses testifying before a coroner’s inquest on Monday said they saw Austin Maniyogena jump from a moving city vehicle on the day of his death.
An inquest into Maniyogena’s death began in Kugluktuk, Nunavut this week. Maniyogena, 22, died of a head injury while in the custody of community RCMP in September 2018. He had been arrested by the Kugluktuk bylaw officer for allegedly driving a ATV while intoxicated.
In her testimony, Andrea Koudloak said she was accompanying her son to school on September 19, 2018, when she saw the settlement vehicle driving along the road near the community hamlet office. She said her son started screaming saying a dog had jumped out of the back of the vehicle.
Koudloak said she looked up and saw the vehicle stop. She approached and realized that it was actually a person. She said she recognized Maniyogena’s jacket, approached him and asked if he knew who she was.
She said Maniyogena nodded and asked her to call her mother. She has accepted.
As she was returning 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 to the detachment. She said she heard officers say he jumped out of the regulation vehicle.
She said the officers were “really harsh” on Maniyogena when they put him in the cell opposite hers.
She remembered he was barely moving but started screaming that he was in pain.
“He said ‘Oh my head, I have a really bad headache,'” Miyok told the inquest.
Miyok said she shouted to the guard at the detachment that Maniyogena should go to the health center. She said the guard then walked over to her cell and told her to “shut up and mind your own business”.
A coroner’s inquest is mandatory for all deaths that occur in RCMP custody. It is led by Sheldon Toner, Counsel to the Chief Coroner of Nunavut. Lawyers from the RCMP, the Government of Nunavut and the Government of the Northwest Territories are also present and can question witnesses.
The six-person jury is expected to hear from 17 witnesses over three days. Witnesses include RCMP officers, doctors and a brain injury specialist. Jurors will then be tasked with making a number of recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths in the future.