Toronto

Guard who helped Soleiman Faqiri chokes back tears recalling 'his last joyful moment on this earth'

The jail sergeant who broke protocol to film Soleiman Faqiri's condition in the hope of getting him help choked back tears as he recalled the joy in Faqiri's face when he finally had a shower after days of deteriorating in segregation.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details

Sgt. Clark Moss spoke about seeing Faqiri for the first time on Dec. 11, 2016 — five days before his death at the Central East Correctional Centre. What he saw was a person in obvious crisis who needed help, he told jurors at a coroner's inquest Wednesday.
Sgt. Clark Moss spoke about seeing Faqiri for the first time on Dec. 11, 2016 — five days before his death at the Central East Correctional Centre. What he saw was a person in obvious crisis who needed help, he told jurors at a coroner's inquest Wednesday. (Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General)

The jail sergeant who broke protocol to film Soleiman Faqiri's condition in the hope of getting him help choked back tears as he recalled the joy in Faqiri's face when he finally had a shower after days of deteriorating in segregation.

Sgt. Clark Moss, who no longer works in corrections, spoke about seeing Faqiri for the first time on Dec. 11, 2016 — four days before his death at the Central East Correctional Centre. What he saw was a person in obvious crisis who needed help, he told jurors at a coroner's inquest Wednesday.

"I just had this sinking feeling in my stomach that this was not going to end well for Soleiman," Moss recalled.

Inside the cell, Faqiri had "vomit and feces encrusted on his body," had injuries to his legs where he'd been "clawing" at himself, and had rubbed feces into his eyes. Jurors have previously heard Faqiri had been in that state for at least four days before Moss returned to the jail.

Jurors heard Moss, who had been off work for a number of days up to that point, stepped in and earned Faqiri's trust to get him to the showers and into a new, clean cell. The simple act of getting a shower had Faqiri "ecstatic," Moss said.

"It was an emotional moment," he recalled.

"It may well have been his last joyful moment on this earth and I want to acknowledge your role in making that happen," coroner's counsel Julian Roy told Moss.

Moss was later reprimanded for his actions that day. One supervisor was upset that he'd filmed Faqiri's condition. Another was concerned about how long Faqiri remained in the shower stall as Moss negotiated with inmates and staff to free up a new cell so that Faqiri could be housed closer to the showers.

CBC Toronto is opting to post nine minutes of footage captured by a colleague of Sgt. Moss to accurately show the dynamic between the corrections officer and Faqiri. While it contains some graphic content and shows Faqiri enduring an apparent mental health crisis, CBC Toronto believes it is relevant to understanding this story.

WATCH | Sgt. Moss filmed escorting Faqiri from cell to shower:

Corrections officer coaxes Soleiman Faqiri from cell

5 months ago
Duration 9:31
Sgt. Clark Moss had another corrections officer record this video of him helping Faqiri move from a cell to the shower in a bid to show the extent of Faqiri's declining mental health. CBC Toronto is opting to post nine minutes of the footage to show the dynamic between the corrections officer and Faqiri. While it contains some graphic content and shows Faqiri in an apparent mental health crisis, CBC Toronto believes it is relevant to understanding this story. You can find the full story at cbc.ca/1.7050838

Segregation reviews being done 'fraudulently'

Jurors heard that an inmate who was in protective custody that day volunteered to give up his protection and move to general population in a bid to help Faqiri. Other inmates offered up extra food they had, including bananas and buns, all recognizing Faqiri needed help.

It was perhaps the one bright spot in Faqiri's time at the Lindsay, Ont. jail, where he would later die face down on the floor of a segregation cell. 

In his role as sergeant, Moss oversaw the jail's segregation unit. He described to the jury a "warehousing" of inmates with mental health issues in segregation, with staff lacking appropriate training on mental illness, a lack of available segregation beds, and an "impossible" workload.

"As a correctional officer, some days you walk in the door feeling handcuffed yourself," he said. 

On top of that, he said, regular reviews that were supposed to take place periodically for inmates in segregation weren't being done correctly — often being filled at a computer in an office rather than in the inmate's presence. That's something Moss said he'd raised concerns about to those in power at the facility — concerns he says were never addressed. 

Soleiman Faqiri is shown in this undated family handout photo.
Soleiman Faqiri is shown in this undated family handout photo. (Yusuf Faqiri/The Canadian Press)

"We were fraudulently doing those reviews," he told the jury. 

Jurors also heard Moss's own staff were upset about Faqiri's situation and were "looking for help" to address it. Moss heard staff were "gagging" while doing rounds in the unit because of the smell coming from Faqiri's cell.

One operational manager in particular, John Thompson, had been advocating for the institutional crisis intervention team (ICIT) to be called in to get Faqiri to the showers. There had long been tensions around the use of ICIT at that point, Moss told jurors. Upon arriving at the cell that day, Moss said he learned a request to use the team had been turned down by the regional office.

Moss told jurors he filmed Faqiri in the hope of getting him to a hospital for a psychiatric assessment, for the protection of his team, as well as to demonstrate to anyone who would listen that Faqiri's behaviour was the result of a mental health issue.

"I wanted video evidence of the condition that he was in," Moss said.

Moss added that in his view, Faqiri had been harming himself. Jurors have heard part of the reason Faqiri was never sent to hospital was that the deputy in charge of health care, deemed he wasn't a harm to himself. 

Sergeant wracked with guilt

Jurors were shown another video on Wednesday, this one of Faqiri's exit from the shower to the new cell that Moss had readied for him. The approximately three-minute-long video shows Faqiri following instructions and moving to the new cell without issue.

Moss testified that with the help of the guards and inmates that day, his team managed to have Faqiri cleaned up, fed, take his medications and into a clean cell.

That would be the last time Moss would lay eyes on Faqiri.

Four days later, he received a phone call that Faqiri had died. 

"Hey Clark, the guy you helped on the weekend is dead," he recalled a fellow guard telling him.

Faqiri died on Dec. 15 after being repeatedly struck by guards, pepper sprayed twice, covered with a spit hood and placed on his stomach on the floor of a segregation cell after he was transferred down a long hallway from a shower stall. His cause of death, previously deemed unascertained, was later deemed to be restraint in a face-down position and injuries from his struggle with guards. 

WATCHVideo shows final moments before Faqiri's deadly restraint:

Inquest into Soleiman Faqiri's death reveals how and when force was used on mentally-ill man

5 months ago
Duration 3:27
WARNING: This video contains violence and some viewers may find it disturbing. CBC News has annotated surveillance video of Soleiman Faqiri's final moments to document the extent of the force correctional officers used on him before he died in a jail cell on Dec. 15, 2016. The timeline is based on an agreed statement of facts entered at the Ontario inquest into Faqiri's death, which is currently underway.

Faqiri, who suffered from schizoaffective disorder — a combination of schizophrenic and bipolar symptoms — was awaiting a medical evaluation at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences. He had been charged with aggravated assault, assault, and uttering threats following an altercation with a neighbour, but had not been convicted of any crime.

No one was ever charged in his death. 

Jurors heard from the jail's deputy of operations at the time, Jarret Merriam, that Faqiri's death has brought more "light" to the use of ICIT. Merriam is now superintendent of the facility. 

"This is the worst outcome possible after a situation where there has been a disagreement on which resources to use," he said Wednesday.

Moss, who himself was once an ICIT coordinator, told jurors he would have considered using the crisis team with Faqiri only as a last resort. Moss added that he felt the use of shields to prevent guards being splashed with water, as Faqiri was alleged to have done, was unnecessary. And he said he would have put another guard in charge of Faqiri's escort, instead of Thompson, who he described as "in over his head at that point."

WATCH | Former inmate says he's haunted by Faqiri's death:

A former inmate speaks out about a day that haunts him

5 years ago
Duration 0:56
John Thibeault says he saw jail guards beat Soleiman Faqiri

Merriam later told jurors that if confronted with another such situation today, he would have brought in a negotiator to speak to Faqiri, instead of the jail's psychologist who tried to earn his trust the day he died. But as for his transfer down the hallway, he said, guards wouldn't necessarily do anything differently.

To this day, Moss says, he is wracked with guilt. On the day Faqiri died, Moss had the day off. Had he been at the jail that day, he would have been in charge of moving Faqiri to his new cell in 8-seg.

Moss closed his testimony by apologizing to the Faqiri family.

"After Soleiman passed, after so many years, I wanted to reach out to the Faqiri family," he said, wiping his eyes. 

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for your loss."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shanifa Nasser

Reporter-Editor

Shanifa Nasser is a journalist with CBC Toronto interested in the justice system, national security and stories with a heartbeat, with a focus on underrepresented communities. Her reporting on Canada's spy agency in 2020 earned an Amnesty International Award and an RTDNA. Her work has also been the basis of two investigative documentaries at The Fifth Estate. Contact her at: shanifa.nasser@cbc.ca

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