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Canadian police taser man to death

Old 11-16-07, 01:30 PM
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Canadian police taser man to death

Another example of how tasers are not a "safe" or "nonlethal" weapon.

Death in Vancouver Prompts Debate Over Taser Use in Canada


Published: November 16, 2007

OTTAWA, Nov. 15 - A video recording showing an emotionally wrought immigrant dying after being hit with a police Taser at an airport last month has touched off a fierce debate in Canada on police actions in the case and the rules governing use of Tasers.

The 10 minute recording, which was broadcast Wednesday night, was made last month by another passenger and initially seized by police. It shows a Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, being hit just 46 seconds after four members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived to subdue him at the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia. It also supports accounts from eyewitnesses who said that the police officers did not appear to be in danger when the weapon was fired at least twice.

Mr. Dziekanski, a 40-year-old construction worker, had arrived in Vancouver to begin a new life with his mother. After a 10 hour delay caused by immigration processing, Mr. Dziekanski became upset when he could not find his mother, who had returned home.

Unable to speak English, Mr. Dziekanski became distressed and began shouting in Polish, moving furniture around, shoving equipment off a desk in an arrival area and, at one point, throwing a chair. His actions soon attracted the attention of other passengers and security officials.

When airport security officials first appear, passengers can be heard shouting to them that Mr. Dziekanski did not understand English. One woman, who the tape shows attempting to calm Mr. Dziekanski at one point, suggests that a Russian interpreter be summoned to help the confused man.

Moments later, four members of the mounted police arrive in the waiting area wearing bullet proof vests. Mr. Dziekanski shouted “Policja, Policja, Policja!” before walking away with his arms raised in the air. There was a brief conversation followed by a loud sound, apparently a Taser shot, and Mr. Dziekanski fell to the ground screaming in pain.

The recording captured what appeared to be a second Taser shot as three officers piled onto Mr. Dziekanski to subdue him. One minute and eight seconds after the police arrive, Mr. Dziekanski appeared to have stopped moving, and the recording ended a short time later.

An autopsy showed no evidence of alcohol or drugs in his system but was unable to determine a cause of death.

“We have very serious concerns about what appears to have happened in this case,” said Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International in Canada which has called for a moratorium on Taser use. “There is a very good likelihood that the Taser was used well before the situation called for it.”

When the police seized the recording at the airport from Paul Pritchard, who was returning home to Victoria, British Columbia, they characterized it as an important piece of evidence. Mr. Pritchard recovered the tape after threatening legal action. Shortly before he released it to the news media late Wednesday, a police spokesman minimized its significance.

“It’s just one piece of evidence, one person’s view,” Cpl. Dale Carr told a news conference in Vancouver.

A coroner’s inquest, which will not find legal fault, has been called into the case. Some police critics are calling for criminal charges against the police officers.
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