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Sister of Montreal man who died while unlawfully jailed wants video footage released

More than a month after her younger brother’s death, Sarafina Dennie says she still has trouble eating or sleeping.

She 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 – on Christmas Eve, the day after him, after an altercation with prison guards in Bordeaux – Montreal prison died to be released to come home to his family.

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

“It’s been over a month now and we’re not getting any replies at all. And we’d love to get answers as to why they did this to him. He didn’t deserve what they did.”

Spring, 21, was unlawfully detained at Montreal’s Bordeaux Prison on December 24 when guards fitted his head with a spit hood and twice pepper sprayed it.

The Quebec Department of Public Safety has called Spring’s detention “illegal” because he was due to be released by a judge on December 23, but was still behind bars the next day when he suffered injuries leading to his led to death.

Unanswered questions

Dennie said the family received little information from investigators about the moments leading up to his death and much of what they learned came from reading news on the internet. She said they hadn’t heard from Spring and didn’t know his release had been ordered, so they didn’t know how close he was to making it home for Christmas.

Now she’s asking authorities to release any relevant video footage of the incident to her family and said she wants the public to see it too.

“I would like answers as to what exactly happened to my brother and to know what they did and why they did it,” she said. “We need justice.”

Dennie said Spring was very popular, both in his Montreal community and with his family, who hailed from the Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in search of a better life.

CLOCK | The young rapper who died in prison should have been released sooner, the ministry says:

Man who died in Montreal jail illegally jailed: ministry

A 21-year-old man who died in a Montreal jail last week should have been released the day before his fatal injury. Officers reportedly used pepper spray and a spit hood on Nicous D’Andre Spring before he died.

One of her last memories, she said, was of him showing up to help carry an oven into her home, which she remembers because she knows how much he loved Caribbean food.

Earlier statements from the family said Spring struggled with mental health issues, but his sister said Monday he was not “dangerous, aggressive or harmful.”

“He was very loving, very kind, very calm,” she said. “Not a rowdy person. You won’t even know he’s in the room unless you see him, he’s that quiet.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) says video footage exists and it should be passed on to family. The organization is expected to address the media at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

“We know it’s been reviewed and we know it’s very concerning,” CCLA Executive Director Noa Mendelsohn Aviv said in a phone interview.

Mendelsohn Aviv said many questions needed to be answered, including why Spring was still in custody when a judge ordered his release and why guards appeared to be using the potentially dangerous combination of a spit hood and pepper spray.

Calls for the video to be released come after authorities across the United States released video footage on Friday showing Tire Nichols being beaten by five Memphis police officers. The footage surfaced a day after officers were charged with murder in Nichols’ death.

Mendelsohn Aviv said the question of whether to release violent footage was not easy.

“On the one hand you have a real need for sensitivity and consideration for the footage of someone being treated violently by those in power, and on the other hand a need for public transparency and accountability and a reckoning with what happened . ” She said.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Mendelsohn Aviv said there was precedent in Canada for the release of videos from detention centers. She said prison videos of Ashley Smith choking herself at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ontario on October 19, 2007 were eventually released despite objections from the Correctional Service Canada.

Mendelsohn Aviv said she had a hard time finding a compelling legal reason for authorities to refuse to release Spring’s video “especially since the family is demanding it.”

When asked if the province would release the video, public safety spokeswoman Marjolaine Gagnon said provincial police were investigating the death and the coroner’s office ordered an inquest. To avoid disrupting those investigations, she said the department “will not release any items that are likely to be examined as evidence.”

For her part, Dennie said she wants the public to see the footage to make sure what happened to her brother doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“The public needs to see what they did,” she said of the prison authorities.

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