Family of Labrador man found dead in cell wants answers

When the police knocked on Pauline Pokue’s door at 11 p.m. on Dec. 17, she had no idea what it was about. The officers told her to come outside because they needed to speak with her. Confused, she went outside and waited for them to tell her why.

She didn’t know what they were going to say, but the last thing she expected was an officer telling her that her brother, Tim Pokue, known as Taku to family and friends, had died in a cell at the Happy Valley-Goose Bay RCMP detachment.

Since then, she said, the family has been waiting on autopsy results to find out more about what happened to the 35-year-old Sheshatshiu man.

“Every day since, we check with the medical examiner’s office, and it’s been, tomorrow, tomorrow, it’ll be tomorrow,” Pokue told SaltWire Network on Tuesday. “We’re just waiting for answers. We don’t know anything.”

In a news release, the RCMP said the Innu man was picked up by officers that night and taken to the detachment, placed in a cell, and later found dead. Following the death, the RCMP requested the Serious Incident Response Team Newfoundland and Labrador (SIRT-NL) to conduct an investigation, which is now underway.

Pokue said that so far, the family doesn’t know much more than that.

She said it’s been really hard on the family not knowing what happened to her brother, a father of six, on his final night that led to his death. He had no long-term health problems that she was aware of and they have no idea what might have happened.

“We don’t know what to think. My mind is just playing games, it’s too much,” she said. “Maybe something happened to him, to my brother, in the cell. They’re supposed to be watched.”

The family wasn’t allowed to see the body before it was sent to St. John’s, she said, and they’re worried he might have been injured prior to his death.

Right now, though, all they can do is wait, she said.

People in the community of just over 1,000 people have been asking her what happened, she said, and they want to know, too.

When contacted by SaltWire, the Innu Nation said it is “very concerned about the death of a member of the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation on Dec. 17 while imprisoned at the RCMP detachment in Happy Valley-Goose Bay,” and is awaiting the completion of the investigation by SIRT-NL before providing further comment.

Both the RCMP and SIRT-NL are not commenting on the matter at this time.