The inmate resisted prison staff at his death, inquest found – Archyde

A prisoner who died while being held by prison officers has been transferred to a vulnerable unit after assaulting one of them, a coroner’s inquest has revealed.

Prisoner Kolby Heta, 33, died March 17, 2017 at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison. Attempts by prison staff to revive him were unsuccessful.

In the weeks after his death, rumors circulated that Heta had been attacked by prison staff before his death – something the police firmly denied.

An inquest into his death is being conducted before Coroner Peter Ryan at Hastings Courthouse. It started on Tuesday.

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Detective Sergeant Daryl Moore told the inquest Heta was held by correctional officers after he assaulted a correctional officer and was transferred to a vulnerable unit when he died on a sidewalk.

The investigation into Heta’s death included interviewing numerous prison staff and obtaining footage from numerous CCTV cameras and body camera footage, Moore said.

Coroner Peter Ryan conducting the inquest in Hastings.  (file photo)


Coroner Peter Ryan conducting the inquest in Hastings. (file photo)

Heta, from Gisborne, was jailed in December 2016 for male assaults on women.

The day before his death, Heta had perpetrated an unprovoked attack on another prisoner that resulted in him voluntarily weeding himself out. Heta later told prison staff he heard voices in his head telling him to attack the other prisoner.

The attack on the correctional officer happened when three officers arrived to bring him his dinner.

Hawke's Bay Regional Prison.  (file photo)

Bill Kearns/Stuff

Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison. (file photo)

Moore said Heta took offense at the food he was served. He got sausages when he was expecting fish.

Attempts to calm Heta were unsuccessful. He threw the tray and food on the floor, then jumped out of the cell and punched one of the correctional officers in the face. Heta was then laid on the ground and handcuffed.

Staff called for help and 13 other officers came to help.

It was decided to move Heta to the risk unit.

Moore said he was restrained using procedures approved for dealing with violent prisoners. He had his hands handcuffed behind his back and was being controlled with holds and orders by four staff members to ensure he was complying.

As the group left the block, Heta spat blood on the floor and onto the detaining officers, so they kept him on the floor for eight minutes while a nurse arrived. The nurse said he was fine to continue. The nurse then accompanied Heta and the officers.

Heta's inquest takes place at Hastings Courthouse.  (file photo)


Heta’s inquest takes place at Hastings Courthouse. (file photo)

Heta was then fitted with a spit hood that prevented him from spitting at the officers.

The Heta was brought into the vulnerable unit via various corridors for 25 minutes. He continued to resist the prison staff, who continued to pressure him.

Moore said CCTV footage showed Heta “mostly walking alone” until he collapsed about 30 meters from the vulnerable unit.

He was dropped. The nurse checked on him. He was not breathing and went into cardiac arrest. CPR was started and a defibrillator was used. Paramedics came and tried to revive him but couldn’t.

Moore said the police investigation concluded that no person or persons were criminally responsible in connection with Heta’s death.

Chief Prison Officer Perry Horua, one of those who held Heta after his death, told the coroner that Heta was over 6 feet tall and “a big, strong boy” who had been involved in a number of assaults on prison staff .

Horua said that Heta showed no sign of discomfort when moved, and he strongly resisted the restraint until he collapsed

Forensic pathologist Kate White said Heta’s death was “sudden cardiac death in the setting of restraint”.

White said no explanation could be found for Heta’s death, but noted that there is a growing body of recent research pointing to the impact that the combination of physical exertion, mental stress and “adrenaline rushes” have on people’s deaths who are tied up.

The investigation is expected to last four days.

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