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Family of man killed in Montreal jail wants surveillance video released


The family of a Montreal man who died after he was seriously injured by jail guards while he was illegally detained is calling for surveillance video of the incident to be released publicly.

Nicous D'Andre Spring was seriously injured on Dec. 24 after correctional officers put a spit hood on him and a supervisor ordered one of them to pepper spray him twice while still wearing the head covering following a conflict with other detainees. He was rushed to hospital and died of his injuries the next day.

The family of the 21-year-old and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association are jointly calling for "all video footage" from the jail to be released immediately, even though they are aware it could be hard to watch. 

In their efforts to shed more light on the events that led to his death, they spoke at a news conference Tuesday morning to formally announce their demands.

"Although it seems traumatizing for us to see that footage, I think it was more traumatizing to see my brother laying in the hospital bed, not breathing, no movement and nothing and also seeing him laying in the coffin. It was the most painful time of my life," said Spring's sister, Sarafina Dennie.

"The organization recognizes that this video is deeply disturbing and could be traumatizing and even dehumanizing if shared and viewed indiscriminately," the CCLA said in a news release.

"However careful viewing for the critical purposes of transparency, accountability, and providing urgent answers to a grieving family are necessary in the circumstances, in particular when Mr. Spring died within the closed confines of a jail."

Nicous D'Andre Spring

Four days after the young man's death, Quebec's public safety ministry confirmed that he had been unlawfully held at the Montreal Detention Centre — also known as Bordeaux jail — since he was supposed to be released from custody on Dec. 23.

For reasons that remain unclear, Spring was still in jail on the day of the Dec. 24 intervention, despite a judge authorizing his release. Two other detainees were also illegally detained following a Dec. 23 hearing, however, they were released the following day.

Spring's sister says she still has trouble eating or sleeping since his death.

She says she struggles to understand how her brother — a quiet person who loved boxing, music and playing with her young children — died at Montreal's Bordeaux jail after he was supposed to be released.

"It breaks my heart," she said in a phone interview.

"It's been over a month now, and we're not really getting any answers at all. And we would love to get answers for why they did this to him. He did not deserve what they did." 

Sarafina Dennie, the sister of Nicous D'Andre Spring, speaks at a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. (CTV News)

Quebec provincial police opened a criminal investigation into the incident, which has called into question the application of spit hoods and their combined use with pepper spray to subdue a detainee.

One correctional officer and a supervisor have been suspended in light of Spring's death, which is also being probed by the public security ministry as it is responsible for provincial detention centres. Quebec's chief coroner has also ordered a public inquiry to provide answers to so many unanswered questions the family still has.

The public security minister does not appear to be willing to grant the family's request for the video footage. 

In a statement to CTV News on Tuesday, the spokesperson for Minister François Bonnardel said he wants to allow the various investigations currently underway shed light on what happened, including the coroner's public inquiry. 

"This additional step provides transparency to ensure public confidence in our prison institutions. We will let the authorities do their job. Mistakes made will have to be assumed and answered," the statement read. 

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a special advisor on anti-Black racism for the CCLA, said in the release that, "It is our understanding that the footage has been reviewed – and is extremely disturbing. But that is more reason to release the video footage immediately."

Montreal police arrested Spring on Dec. 20. He appeared in court on Dec. 23 on charges of assaulting a peace officer, criminal harassment and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. He was also facing two counts of breach of a condition of release. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

People attend a vigil in memory of Nicous D'Andre Spring in Montreal, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. Sarafina Dennie says she struggles to understand how her brother Nicous D'Andre Spring -- a quiet person who loved boxing, music and playing with her young children -- died at Montreal's Bordeaux jail after an altercation with jail guards on Christmas Eve, a day after he was supposed to be released to come home to his family. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes


Spring was an aspiring rapper from Montreal, going by the name YK Lyrical.

Spring's sister said in a previous statement earlier this month from the anti-racism group Red Coalition that her brother needed mental health support but was instead treated by jail guards like a "rabid animal."

"They put a spit mask on him and a supervisor ordered agents to pepper-spray him while he was still wearing the mask," Dennie said. "Correction officers are supposed to be trained to deal with inmates with special needs."

At a news conference on Jan. 5, the Red Coalition said the family has demanded the Quebec ombudsman to launch an investigation into systemic racism in the provincial jail system.

The CCLA said Tuesday that Spring's case points to a larger problem within jails in Quebec and across Canada. The group said these institutions are in need of increased scrutiny to protect their inmate populations, which are "disproportionately filled with racialized persons, as well as those experiencing poverty, homelessness, mental health issues, and those criminalized for substance use."

"Mr. Spring should never have been in custody, the Quebec Ministry of Public Safety has confirmed that he was being illegally detained," said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, the CCLA's executive director.

"Every detail about this case is troubling. For a man to lose his life in care of the government in such a horrific manner is profoundly troubling."

Dennie said Tuesday she wants the video footage released to get answers about "what happened exactly to my brother, and to know what they did and why they did it," she said.

"We need justice." Top Stories

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