Coroner's inquest hears Sask. man died in custody from self-inflicted gunshot wound

Jeremy Sabourin shot himself while he was in the custody of Moose Jaw Police Service, according to testimony heard Monday morning.

Officer testifies Jeremy Sabourin pulled out gun in his police cell the day after being arrested

Vehicles from the the Moose Jaw Police Service are parked outside of the service's station in Moose Jaw, Sask., on April 28, 2022.
Jeremy Sabourin died while in the custody of Moose Jaw Police Service on Oct. 7, 2021. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains description of a death by suicide.

The coroner's inquest into the death of Jeremy Sabourin is officially underway in Moose Jaw. 

The 40-year-old died on Oct. 7, 2021, while in the custody of the Moose Jaw Police Service. The inquest heard Monday that Sabourin shot himself inside his police cell.

On Monday morning, Coroner Blaine Beaven empanelled a six-person jury made up of four women and two men.

Juries in coroner's inquests are tasked with determining the identity of the deceased as well as how, when and where that person died. The jury can also make recommendations on how similar incidents can be avoided in the future.

Const. Chris Flanagan of the Moose Jaw Police Service was the first to take the stand Monday.

At the time of Sabourin's death, Flanagan was a staff sergeant with the police and was the officer in charge of the cells at the service's headquarters.

Flanagan testified that on Oct. 6, Sabourin was transported to the Moose Jaw Police Service by RCMP Const. Paul Evans, after Sabourin was arrested near Assiniboia, Sask., on an outstanding warrant.

Flanagan testified that he helped process Sabourin into Moose Jaw police custody. That included filling out intake forms and getting him registered in the Moose Jaw police system.

Flanagan testified that Sabourin did not answer most questions he was asked, including whether he felt suicidal.

Evans told Flanagan that Sabourin had already been searched and the Moose Jaw police officer testified that he took him at his word.

Flanagan said he had Sabourin lift up his shirt so that he could inspect whether Sabourin was wearing a belt or anything else that could be potentially used for self harm. Spotting nothing, Sabourin was processed into Moose Jaw police custody. 

A man in a tan jacket holds a fishing road while looking back at the camera.
Jeremy Sabourin is shown fishing in an undated photograph. (Ross Funeral Service)

It was only after Sabourin was brought into the cells that Flanagan noticed a flag on Sabourin's file indicating that he was potentially suicidal. 

Flanagan directed one of the cell guards, a commissionaire, to keep a closer eye on Sabourin as a result. 

Flanagan testified that on Oct. 7, Sabourin was set to appear in court.

However, Flanagan was told by Const. Payton Denet, another member of the Moose Jaw Police Service, that Sabourin refused to leave his cell due to back pain.

When Flanagan unlocked the door to try and encourage Sabourin to move along, he found the 40-year-old on his bed.

Flanagan testified that Sabourin told him to look away before pulling a gun, placing it in his mouth, and pulling the trigger.

Flanagan slammed the door shut and was joined by Denet a moment later. 

When they reopened the door, they found Sabourin crumpled on the ground with blood around him.

Officers and EMS attempted life-saving measures on Sabourin but were unsuccessful and he was declared dead a short time later.

Denet testified that while searching Sabourin's body he found a slim "custom-made" holster that was clipped to the outside of Sabourin's underwear.

The gun was a long-barrel revolver.

According to an obituary for Sabourin, he was a member of the Saskatchewan Handgun Association and a local safety officer for several years.

Flanagan confirmed that for his role in the death he was demoted from staff sergeant, the highest ranking operational role in the force, to constable, the lowest rank.  

Flanagan was suspended without pay for a month, had to requalify as an officer and was under close supervision for a year.

The inquest is scheduled for this entire week. Thirteen witnesses are expected to testify. 

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Alexander Quon is a reporter with CBC Saskatchewan based in Regina. After working in Atlantic Canada for four years he's happy to be back in his home province. He has previously worked with the CBC News investigative unit in Nova Scotia and Global News in Halifax. Alexander specializes in data-reporting, COVID-19 and municipal political coverage. He can be reached at: