Coroner to probe how inmate hit own head 100 times

Sentry Taitoko died in police custody. Photo: Facebook
Sentry Taitoko died in police custody. Photo: Facebook
A Coroner will today hold an inquest into the death of a South Auckland man who managed to hit his head more than 100 times in a police cell after his arrest.

Sentry Veilance Taitoko, 20, died in a cell at the Counties Manukau police station in 2014 while intoxicated.

His family - who are travelling from Australia for the inquest - hope the inquest will bring closure and help them understand why and how he died.

On February 23 2014 Taitoko was arrested for breach of the peace and taken into custody.

At the time he was under the influence of a synthetic drug similar to LSD, alcohol, cannabis and methamphetamine.

Taitoko arrived at the police station about 1.45am and put in a cell to detox.

He was periodically monitored.

During the night officers witnessed Taitoko rolling on the ground and thrashing his arms and legs about.

Over the period of half an hour, CCTV footage showed him falling and hitting his head on the concrete floor and walls of the cells 83 times.

Sentry Taitoko is laid to rest in the Manukau Memorial Gardens by mourners after he died in...
Sentry Taitoko is laid to rest in the Manukau Memorial Gardens by mourners after he died in police custody. Photo: NZ Herald
Over the next hour, he hit his head another 31 times.

At 5.15am an officer found his breathing to be short and gargled and his eyes rolling back in his head.

Attempts to resuscitate Taitoko were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at 6.10am.

Coroner Debra Bell will today hold an inquest into Taitoko's death.

It will be held in the Auckland District Court.

In 2015 the Independent Police Conduct Authority released a report into the death of the 20-year-old.

The watchdog found police breached their legal duty of care to Taitoko in a number of ways.

"The officers who first detained Mr Taitoko should have called for urgent medical assistance," said then-chairman of the IPCA Sir David Carruthers.

"There were also numerous other failures that resulted from the failure of police to recognise that Mr Taitoko's behaviour was caused by an extreme and dangerous drug reaction."

It emerged that a police doctor looked through the cell window at 3.21am, but said Taitoko was too violent to take to hospital.

Police could not be criticised for failing to do so after receiving that medical advice, Carruthers said.

However their actions before that point were blasted.

"Police breached their legal duty of care to Mr Taitoko because they did not seek urgent medical care when they first encountered him, and subsequently failed to carry out appropriate checks on his condition," the IPCA ruled.

"This failure was unjustified.

"Over time the walls of the cell became smeared with blood from Mr Taitoko's nose and grazes on his body."

It is understood today's inquest will cover new ground, including looking at any changes police have made to address shortcomings in care.

Taitoko's family were travelling from Australia for the inquest and were due to arrive late on Sunday night, their lawyer Barry Wilson told the Herald.

"This man died in police custody and there are a lot of questions to be asked," he said.

"This inquest will do a great deal to explain to the family exactly what happened... they're hoping for clarity and closure and to really understand better what was going on."

In 2015 Wilson said the IPCA found that police did not have the authority to take the intoxicated man into custody - because he was on private property and was being looked after by family.

"Even if he was going to die, his death should not have occurred in police custody," Wilson said after the decision was released.


whats needs to be found out did this man do this to himself or did others do it to him

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