Man dies after being taken from hospital to cell

Keely Dakin
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After the unexpected death of her husband, who died after being in police custody, Cynthia Ballantyne and her family are looking for answers.

Early on Thursday morning Billy Ballantyne, 44, was experiencing pain in his arm.

An ambulance arrived at his home on Little Red River Reserve and took him to Victoria Hospital, where he awaited treatment.

Around 6:30 a.m. security called the Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS) to request help with an unknown disturbance. As a result, Ballantyne was removed from the hospital, where he had allegedly refused to be medically served, and taken into custody.

“This individual was brought in from another jurisdiction, he was awaiting treatment. He allegedly became somewhat disruptive there and security called us and we brought him here, to our cell block,” McLean said.

About two hours later, Ballantyne was again in an ambulance, this time at the behest of the PAPS.

“He began to show some symptoms of health-related issues and he was taken back,” McLean said.

“He was having some breathing issues and obviously some medical problems that we’re ill equipped to handle here,” he said.

Billy’s family and friends grieved his loss on Monday at a service held on the reserve.

His wife Cynthia Ballantyne was out of town when he went to the hospital and has some questions and concerns.

Billy’s sister, Mabel Ballantyne, said that when the ambulance arrived, Billy was disoriented. She said he was in bad shape because he had not eaten anything since the day before and had been vomiting.

“They made him walk to the ambulance,” Mabel said.  “They thought he was drunk,” she added.

Billy had been unwell for a long time.

“My husband had HIV. He had TB,” Cynthia said. “We just found out in November of last year,” she added.

Billy had full-blown AIDs, Cynthia said, and along with that and TB, he also had problems with his kidneys and had injured his arm on Monday. It was because of his arm and feeling very ill that an ambulance was called.

Because of his health issues, Billy had been traveling to Saskatoon regularly for visits to the doctor, so he was used to being treated. For that reason, his wife and sister do not understand why he would have refused treatment.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Mabel said.

Cynthia was disturbed and very angry that deputy Chief Kelly Steinwand referred to Billy Ballantyne as having been intoxicated, during a press conference on Friday, which was aired on CTV and which her son, Ashton saw.

“He’s not a drunk. He barely drinks, cause he was on his medicine,” she said.

The impact on her and her children is severe.

“They think their dad is just sleeping. I told them he’s not sleeping he’s gone. They think he’s gonna wake up,” Cynthia said.

“He’s not a drunk. He barely drinks, cause he was on his medicine,” Cynthia Ballantyne said.

“He was always there for his kids. We’ve been married for seven years, we’ve been together nine years,” Cynthia said.

“He was always there for everyone, helping everyone out,” she added.

Cynthia also feels that the doctor who informed her of her husband’s death could have treated her with more compassion.

“I got a phone call about 10:30, Thursday morning, from the doctor. He asked me if I knew a guy named Billy … the doctor just told me, ‘he’s dead.’ No sympathy. I was at home by myself with my baby … I hung up on that doctor after he said that. I was so mad,” she said.

When Cynthia and Mabel first saw Billy’s body on Saturday, they noticed some darkness, which appears to be bruising, on the left side of his face and a small scratch on his ear. Those were not there before he went to the hospital and she would like to understand what they are from, Cynthia said.

It will likely take a couple of months before the coroner gets all the toxicology reports and confirms the cause of Billy’s death.

“Investigators are awaiting autopsy results and have advised the Ministry of Policing and Corrections of this situation, which is standard practice,” McLean said.

He also said it is up them whether or not a third-party investigation will take place. 

A coroner’s inquest will be performed. Under the Coroner’s Act, an inquest is automatic when a person has been in police custody unless the coroner is satisfied that the person’s death was entirely the result of natural causes and was not preventable.

McLean does not know what the alleged disturbance at the hospital was and said those are details he would not release, as they are a part of the investigation.

As to the severity of Billy’s condition before he was removed from the hospital, it is not yet known if he even saw a doctor.

“I don’t know if he got examined by hospital staff or not, or if he got that far in the process. I don’t know,” McLean said.

Cynthia has not been contacted by anyone from the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region and only by the investigating officer of her husband’s case, Const. Travis Willie, from PAPS.

She said she would like for them to contact her to explain what occurred.

“I wanna know what really happened, because I keep hearing different stories. I want to know what really happened to my husband. They have to explain to me, to let me know what happened.”

Organizations: Prince Albert Police Service, Victoria Hospital, Ministry of Policing and Corrections

Geographic location: Little Red River Reserve, Saskatoon

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