Family grieve for man who died in cell

ROB KIDD
Last updated 17:29 26/02/2014

Death in police custody

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The South Auckland man who died in police custody on Sunday has been named as Sentry Taitoko, 20.

Mystery surrounds what caused the death of the Manurewa man in the cells at Manukau police station.

At a press conference on Monday Counties Manukau police Superintendent John Tims said an autopsy had been completed, but toxicology lab results would take a couple of weeks.

Taitoko's family described his death as "a huge loss".

"There are many people whose emotions are running high. We ask that the public and media have patience regarding the situation as we need police to get on with their investigation into this case, and we ask for our family to be left alone to grieve for our loved one," they said in a statement.

Tims confirmed police took the Taitoko into custody about 1am on Sunday after they were called to a disturbance at a Manurewa address.

Taitoko was described as "aggressive, violent and intoxicated". Family members had struggled to restrain him, Tims said.

He was arrested for breaching the peace and taken in for detoxification.

Still acting aggressively while in custody, he was put in a monitored cell alone.

"A doctor was called to view him but because of his violent and aggressive nature the doctor could not see him," Tims said.

A criminal investigation and an internal investigation are under way. The incident has been referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the coroner.

Tims described the death as a tragedy.

"It's a difficult time for the family and the police staff involved and we're supporting the family in every way as possibly can."

Tims would not elaborate on how heavy handed police had been with the man other than to say he had been "restrained".

No Taser was used, he said.

Twenty-seven people died in police custody between 2000 and 2010.

An IPCA review of the deaths, released in 2012, found gaps in police training.

These included knowing safe restraint procedures to assessing the medical risk of prisoners. It also expressed the need for specialty detox centres or temporary shelters where medical care was at hand.

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