Police use of CS gas could have contributed to the death of Edson Da Costa, an inquest has heard. Edson died after being stopped by police in Beckton, east London, in June 2017.
Officers pinned him to the ground and one sprayed CS gas in his face. Edson was pronounced dead in hospital six days later.
Medical expert Professor Jerry Nolan gave evidence to the inquest into his death on Wednesday of this week. He said the use of CS gas “could in theory” have contributed to Edson’s death.
Nolan said that Edson had likely gone into cardiac arrest by the time he was placed in the recovery position. This was minutes after he got out of the car he was stopped in.
Nolan agreed that the cause of Edson’s death was lack of oxygen after a plastic bag containing wraps of drugs became lodged in his throat. He said it would have been “difficult” to tell whether Edson was having trouble breathing.
Nolan said the use of CS spray could “make airway obstruction worse”. He also said it could alleviate an obstruction if it made someone cough.
Nolan said Edson’s life could have been saved “if it had been recognised he had an airway obstruction and it was dealt with before he lost consciousness and had cardio respiratory arrest”.
He said officers “did everything they possibly could” to save him. He also said, “If freed from restraint and encouraged to cough up the bags of wraps, in my opinion, he would have survived.”
The inquest also heard from Ian Read, a lead safety training officer with the Metropolitan Police. He compared being sprayed with CS gas with having a shower.
Asked about the risks involved with CS gas Read said, “If it gets in the eye, there’s an increased risk, but no more risk than a water pistol or power shower hitting the eye. There’s a potential for causing injury but it is very unlikely.”
Police guidelines recommend using CS spray on someone at a distance of one metre. The court heard that Edson was sprayed with CS gas around a pen’s length from his face.
Three of the officers who restrained Edson said he was sprayed before they knew he had drugs in his mouth. One officer recalled the drugs being mentioned before Edson was sprayed.
Read said, “If you are restraining somebody and they have drugs in their mouth, it’s probably not appropriate to spray that person with CS unless they are holding a weapon.”
The jury heard that officers didn’t know if Edson had a weapon.
Senior coroner Nadia Persaud asked whether officers should have asked Edson if he was choking after they saw drugs come out of his mouth. Read said this is not covered in safety training.
The inquest continues.