This story contains distressing details.
A Vancouver police officer involved in apprehending Const. Nicole Chan under the Mental Health Act the night before she died by suicide said he tried to change the mind of a doctor at Vancouver General Hospital who released Chan.
Const. Warren Head described how he “advocated” for Chan’s admission to hospital because he felt strongly she was a suicide risk. He said he also had concerns that Chan’s police experience conducting mental health apprehensions gave her insight into how to avoid being admitted.
“The doctor just mentioned to me that they had a conversation with Nicole, and based on the content of that conversation, they determined that she was not a threat to herself,” said Head. “They said that the treatment plan she was on was appropriate moving forward.”
“I mentioned to them that she was a police officer,” he said. “I believed that she was knowledgeable enough to tell the doctors what they wanted to hear so that she would not be admitted to the hospital.”
Speaking on Day 4 of the B.C. Coroner’s Inquest into Chan’s death, Head said he was surprised by the doctors’ decision to release Chan because, in his many experiences with apprehensions, it was something that almost never happened.
“That was one of the first times that I’ve heard, ‘No, we’re not going to admit them,'” he said.
According to Head, he and Chan had met once, many years earlier, while attending a call together.
Chan, 30, spent about two hours at the VGH access and assessment centre before she was discharged at 11:35 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2019, and taken home by a VPD member. She was found dead the next morning.
On Wednesday, the inquest heard excerpts from a WorkSafeBC claim Chan filed months before she took her life, detailing alleged sexual coercion by two supervising VPD officers.
Chan’s allegations of sexual assault and extortion against Sgt. David Van Patten were investigated by the New Westminster Police, however, the B.C. Prosecution Service ultimately decided not to approve charges. Van Patten was eventually dismissed from the VPD.
Another superior Chan had an intimate relationship with, Sgt. Greg McCullough, retired.
Boyfriend gives evidence
On Wednesday, Jamie Gifford, Chan’s boyfriend and roommate told coroner’s court that Chan had grown increasingly depressed in the weeks before her death.
“She was very upset there was nothing getting solved over her case, and she felt very hopeless that she had lost her career,” said Gifford. “She was very upset that all the people that put her in this position to lose her job were still able to work and could go on with their life like nothing happened.”
Gifford said his relationship with Chan had become strained, and when he told her on Jan 26, 2019, he was going to spend some time at a friend’s house, she became distraught and appeared to threaten suicide.
Gifford said a friend called the police, even though Gifford himself didn’t think it was a good idea because of Chan’s relationship with the VPD.
He described a private conversation he had with Chan before she was taken to VGH by police.
“She told me she was worried that the person they were taking her to go see was best friends with Dave Van Patten in HR,” said Gifford.
Gifford said he left their apartment at his friends’ urging, taking potentially dangerous items with him. As he was leaving, he met Chan returning, and she assured him she was OK, he said.
Gifford found Chan’s body when he returned to the apartment the next morning. A suicide note was presented in coroner’s court as evidence.
If you or someone you know is struggling, here’s where to get help:
If you’re worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them about it, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. Here are some warning signs:
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Substance abuse.
- Feeling trapped.
- Hopelessness and helplessness.
- Mood changes.