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May-24-2009 15:11TweetFollow @OregonNews
Another Taser Death (VIDEO)Daniel Johnson Salem-News.com
Many Canadians are now focusing on is the apparent lack of truth and responsibility on the part of the national police force.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - On October 14, 2007, 40 year-old Robert Dziekański arrived at Vancouver International airport from Poland after a flight of nearly 24 hours.
He was emigrating to Canada to live with his mother in Kamloops, B.C. The plan she offered was for them to meet by the baggage carousel. What she didn’t realize was that the carousel was in a secure area to which she had no access. This, otherwise insignificant, error cost Dziekański his life.
Dziekanski spoke no English but he believed it would not be a problem. There were Polish-speaking people on the plane and his mother would be at the airport.
His flight was about two hours late and he arrived at Vancouver just after 3:00 p.m. on October 13, 2007.
Officials later reported that he needed language support to fill out customs forms. From then until about 11:00 p.m. his exact whereabouts were unknown, although he had been seen around the baggage carousel. About 10:00 p.m. his mother inquired for the last time about her son and was told that he was not in the airport. She returned home to Kamloops.
Around midnight he was directed to a secondary processing area to have his visa completed. No airport personnel expressed any curiosity as to why a man was still hanging around nine hours after arriving!
It was around this time that he became agitated. After nearly 40 hours of little or no sleep, in an unfamiliar area, with no one who spoke his language and virtually no help from airport personnel, this is not a surprise.
He apparently began throwing furniture around and the security guards made little attempt to communicate with him or de-escalate the situation. Finally, the airport police, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) were called. Four officers arrived and seven seconds later he was given the first of five taser shocks. (The RCMP initially said that only three officers arrived and that he had been tasered only twice.)
He fell to the floor after the first jolt, but the officer with the Taser continued shocking him. Then, with Dziekański on his stomach one of the officers leaped on him with a knee to his neck or upper back and he was handcuffed. The four officers then milled around, giving him no assistance while he died from heart failure.
This is where the story really begins. When paramedics arrived twelve minutes later the officers refused to unhandcuff the unconscious man because they still considered him a threat. The paramedics said later, that Dziekański was already dead by this time.
After the incident the four officers filled out their reports. They all said basically the same thing. Dziekański was wildly throwing things around and had picked up a stapler from a desk and was waving it wildly over his head as he approached the officers in a threatening manner.
Enter Paul Pritchard, a citizen who happened to be outside the area and caught everything on his cellphone camera. Were it not for Pritchard, the officers’ story would have been accepted as accurate and Dziekański’s death would have been explainable as due to his own irrational actions.
Pritchard gave his camera to the RCMP who, after reviewing it, refused to return it. Pritchard had to go to court to get it back, at which point he released the video to the media.
It turns out that almost nothing the officers said in their reports was accurate. They all later claimed that they had made errors in their reports, but what makes them suspect is that they all claimed to see the same wrong things.
* Dziekański was agitated when they arrived. He was not.
* He waved the stapler about menacingly. In the video he never raises it above waist level
* They claimed that they had to tackle him and wrestle him to the ground. Not true.
* They claimed that he did not fall at the first taser jolt. He did.
The B.C. government announced an inquiry to be headed by retired judge Thomas R. Braidwood. After two delays, the inquiry began on January 19, 2009. In February 2009 Canada unilaterally suspended its mutual legal assistance treaty with Poland, thus blocking Poland's own investigation of the incident.
While Dziekański’s death was a totally preventable tragedy, what many Canadians are now focusing on is the apparent lack of truth and responsibility on the part of the national police force. There have been other in custody injuries and deaths at their hands and many people are now legitimately concerned about what happened in those incidents where only the word of the officers is available.
A more fundamental issue is that the police, even after viewing the video, decided that no criminal charges against any of the officers was warranted. This is a clear case showing that police cannot be trusted to investigate themselves.
The Braidwood Inquiry is in its final days and it is not known when Mr. Justice Braidwood will release his report.
Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class—a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves—writing and trying to make the world a better place
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