‘She didn’t deserve that’ — (Winnipeg Free Press)

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Winnipeg Free Press

Posted: 03/29/2007 5:00 AM

THE mother of a woman who died this week after being taken by police to a downtown detoxification centre says her daughter should have gone to a hospital instead. Speaking with the Press on Wednesday, Annabelle Tom said her daughter, Cheryl, 35, a former health-care worker with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, suffered from bipolar disorder — also known as manic depression — and took four kinds of medication.

Tom said she believes police officers made a mistake that may have cost her daughter her life when they arrested her for public intoxication and took her to the Main Street Project.

Had they taken Cheryl to a hospital, staff might have recognized the woman wasn’t drunk but had likely overdosed on medication, said Tom.

“But they took her to the detox centre on Main Street with all the — I hate to say — low lifes,” Tom said, fighting back tears. “And… and… she died.

“They just assumed that she was intoxicated and she died alone. She didn’t deserve that.”

Police continued their investigation of Cheryl Tom’s death Wednesday. However, a spokesman stood by the decision to transfer the woman to the detoxification centre.

“Obviously, the officers felt — and I’m sure Main Street Project felt — that this person displayed the symptoms of being severely intoxicated or they wouldn’t have been placed there,” said Sgt. Kelly Dennison.

Cheryl may have unintentionally taken too much medication before leaving her St. James apartment, her mother said, adding she didn’t believe her daughter would attempt suicide.

The medication could have caused Cheryl to slur her words, Tom said.

“My daughter didn’t drink. My daughter was bipolar and she took medication for her bipolar (disorder),” she said.

Tom said she expects an autopsy report on her daughter to be completed this week.

She acknowledged her daughter had abandoned the youngest of her three children in her Cavalier Drive apartment. Police returned the little girl to her father, who did not live with Cheryl.

Tom also said police were familiar with her daughter and her medical condition, because Cheryl’s neighbours had called authorities to complain about her on several occasions.

But Dennison said he doubted police officers knew of the woman and her illness.

Police were called to a convenience store in the 3300 block of Portage Avenue about 7 a.m. Monday. Store staff indicated a woman had tried to go through their pockets looking for a cigarette and also alleged Tom had been involved in an altercation.

Both police and Annabelle Tom confirmed the allegations. Tom said it was her daughter who called police.

Officers arrested Cheryl and delivered her to the Main Street Project. The centre accepts people suffering from both alcohol and drug intoxication.

At about 9:40 a.m., police reported centre staff made a routine check on Tom and found her unresponsive. She was taken to hospital in critical condition, where she died.

joe.paraskevas@freepress.mb.ca