The man who ran in and out of traffic before dying in the custody of the Surrey RCMP last week was a former drug addict who ran a local recovery house, according to friends and records.

Victor Kooner, 39, had relapsed twice while in recovery from his cocaine addiction in the past few years, but had never behaved as police described, long-time friend Danny Markovitz told CTV News.

"He had some drug problems in the past, and that's what motivated him to help people," said Markovitz, who also works with Kooner's organization, the Spiritual Freedom House Society. The society has a number of houses in Surrey for recovering addicts.

Last week Kooner was seen with another man dodging cars at 160th Street and 88th Avenue around 11 p.m. Witnesses said he appeared high.

Surrey RCMP took Kooner into custody, according to a release from the RCMP. Markovitz said police have since told him that officers handcuffed Kooner and placed him on the pavement.

That's when Kooner went into medical distress, Markovitz said. Kooner later died in Surrey Memorial Hospital.

"He was having a panic attack. He wasn't committing a crime or struggling," said Markovitz, adding that he hoped the Vancouver police investigation into Surrey RCMP conduct would get to the bottom of whether officers acted appropriately.

Kooner leaves behind a wife and two young boys, aged nine and 12, he said.

Meanwhile, critics are wondering how a man with a drug problem was allowed to run a drug recovery house in the first place.

"Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, people are going to places where their addiction problems are going to get worse, not better," said NDP Health Critic Adrian Dix.

There are some 100 recovery houses in Surrey. None are required to be licensed as health facilities. Patients typically surrender their welfare allowances in exchange for room and board.

Dix said the government should re-regulate the houses, and should consider drug tests for house managers.

Markovitz said that in his experience, most people running drug houses are former addicts.

"You'd be hard pressed to find someone running a recovery house who doesn't have a drug problem," he said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward