By Linda Straker
ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada — Authorities on the eastern Caribbean island of Grenada said Wednesday they are investigating the death of a 39-year-old carpenter from Canada following allegations of police brutality.
Police issued a statement saying Oscar Bartholomew died shortly after being arrested on Monday. They provided no details and declined further comment.
Family members accuse officers of beating Bartholomew after he mistook a plainclothes female police officer for a friend and hugged her, lifting her off the ground while in front of a police station in the southeastern part of the island.
Bartholomew, along with his wife and a cousin, had stopped at the St. David's police station on Monday afternoon because his wife needed to use the bathroom, his aunt Josephine de Souza said in a telephone interview.
De Souza and one of Bartholomew's cousin, Shem Pierre, accused police of leaving Bartholomew bleeding in his cell for at least three hours before calling an ambulance at the insistence of his wife.
According to doctors, a blood vessel in his brain had burst, causing his death early Tuesday, Pierre said in a separate telephone interview.
Bartholomew and his wife had arrived in Grenada on Friday to visit family for the holidays, Pierre said.
Attorney Derick Sylvester, who is representing the family, said relatives were giving their statements to police Wednesday.
"We're putting things in place," Sylvester said, adding that the family is trying to hire a pathologist from the nearby island of Trinidad to conduct an independent autopsy. He said the preliminary results of the government-ordered autopsy were expected late Wednesday.
Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has called for a thorough investigation, and he and other high-ranking government officials visited the home of Bartholomew's relatives Wednesday.
Police, meanwhile, pledged a thorough and objective investigation.
"The (police department) understands the anxieties and concerns of the family of the deceased and the public and urges patience as the investigations progress," they said in a statement.
Christopher Nelson, public prosecution director, said his office is helping lead the investigation. He declined further comment.
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Copyright 2011 Associated Press