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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Man too much to handle, taser inquest told

November 30, 2005
PETTI FONG, Globe and Mail

Vancouver — Roman Andreichikov was so strong and unwilling to comply with police commands that he bucked off a 175-pound police officer with his legs while two others held down his upper body, a coroner's inquest heard Tuesday.

When police responded to a 911 call that Mr. Andreichikov was suicidal, the fitness trainer looked so massive and imposing that within seconds of seeing him sitting on a couch, Vancouver police Constable Dave Hall said he decided to draw his taser from its holster.

Constable Hall and his partner Marc Bouchey entered the Granville Street apartment when Mr. Andreichikov, 25, was upset and on Day 5 of a cocaine binge. A friend had called to say the fitness trainer had attempted to commit suicide twice.

On the witness stand Tuesday at the inquest into Mr. Andreichikov's death on May 1, 2004, Constable Hall said he tried to control Mr. Andreichikov's legs while two other officers who arrived moments later attempted to control his upper body.

But Constable Hall, who is 5'11 inches and 175 pounds, said Mr. Andreichikov easily lifted the officer off him with his legs and threw him about two feet.

The five-person jury is hearing evidence in the inquest about the circumstances that led Constable Hall to use his taser.

Mr. Andreichikov stopped breathing and died within moments of being hit with two electrical shocks.

Constable Hall said after he was thrown off and then showed Constable Bouchey a better technique to control the man's lower body, the other police officer still had trouble.

At 220 pounds and 6'3 inches, Constable Bouchey was larger than Mr. Andreichikov, who Constable Hall said he at first believed was about the same weight as his partner at 220 pounds, but six inches shorter.

Autopsy results showed Mr. Andreichikov was 5'6 inches and 160 pounds.

But Constable Hall said that when he and his partner first entered the apartment and saw Mr. Andreichikov, he didn't have time to gauge the man's height and weight adequately. He was more concerned, he told the jury, about the man's agitated state.

“I could see how hard he was flexing his body. He wasn't sitting still. He was shaking and vibrating,” said Constable Hall. “With the clenching of the jaw, the fast breathing, the sounds. It was hard to describe. It was so primal.”

The officer said based on his experience, he believed the man was in a drug-induced psychosis.

Constable Hall said he once saw a 300-pound police officer, one of the biggest guys on the police force, lose a physical encounter with a 130-pound teenager in a similar agitated state. It took six police officers to control the skinny youth.

In his day-long testimony, Constable Hall, who had received his taser 10 days before the May 1 incident and was testing it in the field, said he tried to calm Mr. Andreichikov. He said he feared that the man was going to run for the balcony and try to leap off again.

Rahim Hadani said he visited Mr. Andreichikov that day and got caught in the middle of a fight he was having with his girlfriend. Mr. Hadani convinced the girlfriend to leave and tried to calm his friend down, but twice, Mr. Hadani said he had to plead with his friend to come back inside after he threatened to jump from the balcony.

In his testimony earlier, Mr. Hadani said that as three officers were on Mr. Andreichikov and pressed his face on the carpet, his friend said he couldn't breathe. But an officer responded that if he was mumbling, he was breathing.

Constable Hall testified that when an officer alerted him that Mr. Andreichikov had stopped breathing, he tried to clear the man's airways. He said he never heard Mr. Andreichikov complain about not being able to breathe.

In fact, Constable Hall said the man was incoherent during the encounter. Constable Hall fired two shots of 50,000 volts each at Mr. Andreichikov.

Jurors have not heard yet what caused Mr. Andreichikov's death. The Vancouver police has faced criticism over its use of tasers in subduing individuals by families of victims and some community rights groups.

Just one month after Mr. Andreichikov's death, another man, Robert Bagnell died after he was tasered.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Inquest on taser death reopens debate on use

November 29, 2005
PETTI FONG, Globe & Mail

VANCOUVER -- Personal trainer Roman Andreichikov was on Day 5 of a cocaine binge when, paranoid and distraught over the mistaken idea his girlfriend starred in a porn movie, he tried to jump over his apartment balcony twice.

But his suicide attempts failed, and when a friend called 911 for help, police arrived. The first officer through the door of the apartment had his taser ready for firing.

A coroner's inquest into Mr. Andreichikov's death on May 1, 2004, began yesterday, reopening the debate about police use of tasers. Just one month after Mr. Andreichikov, 25, stopped breathing in his apartment after a taser shot in the chest, Robert Wayne Bagnell, 44, died shortly after he was hit with a taser.

In both cases, police said they were dealing with individuals in cocaine-induced psychosis.

It took four officers to subdue Mr. Andreichikov, a part-time model and personal trainer who was so fit, a friend described him as looking "pumped all the time."

One officer held Mr. Andreichikov's head down on the carpet, another had his knee pressed against the slight but muscular man's back, a third officer handcuffed him and a fourth was holding his legs. Even then, Mr. Andreichikov proved too strong for police.

Testifying at the inquest, Mr. Andreichikov's friend, Rahim Hadini, said he talked the victim back from the ledge when he twice tried to leap from his balcony. When Mr. Hadini first arrived to visit his friend, Mr. Andreichikov was paranoid and fighting with his girlfriend, Jaimie Layno, accusing her of being in a porn movie.

Mr. Hadini said he persuaded Ms. Layno to leave and tried to talk to Mr. Andreichikov, who was dry-mouthed and incoherent. After Mr. Andreichikov tried to jump off the ledge, Mr. Hadini said he called for an ambulance and police showed up. After ordering Mr. Andreichikov to lie down, police tried to subdue him and shot him with a taser gun.

"He was screaming and mumbling that he couldn't breathe," Mr. Hadini said. "The guy holding his head to the carpet said if you're mumbling, you're breathing." A moment later, Mr. Hadini said, his friend was unconscious.

Police statements described Mr. Andreichikov as being like a caged wild animal, who, even after being shot with the taser gun, resisted attempts to subdue him by yelling, kicking and shaking his arms uncontrollably.

Kevin Woodall, the lawyer representing the officer who shot the taser gun, said Mr. Hadini's statement indicates the exchange about whether Mr. Andreichikov was still breathing and the response that if he was mumbling, he still had breath, was actually made between two officers and not between the victim and an officer.

In the past two years, five people in B.C. have died after being shocked with a taser, and the province's chief coroner has called on police to look for other ways to deal with people in a condition known as "excited delirium."

The five-person coroner's jury hasn't yet heard any evidence about toxicology results for Mr. Andreichikov. His girlfriend testified yesterday that he had been using cocaine in each of the five days before his death.

Ms. Layno said she begged Mr. Andreichikov to quit and even tried at one point to get him into a rehabilitation program. She left their apartment on May 1 after their friend convinced her to leave for a couple of hours. When she received a frantic phone call to come home, she arrived just in time to see her boyfriend's body being wheeled out.

Earlier this fall, the Victoria police department released a report on taser use recommending more training and to use it only when a person is actively resisting arrest or poses a threat to others. The report also recommended a person shocked by a taser should be restrained in a way that allows the individual to breathe easily.

Mr. Andreichikov's mother, Diana Andreichikov, said there is no reason why tasers should ever be used.

"He was never violent in his life. He was never dangerous to anybody," said Ms. Andreichikov outside the inquest. She admitted to being shocked to hear her son was using drugs.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Woman claims cops used stun gun on her

November 25, 2005
CBC News

What constitutes excessive force is a central issue at the trial of two Halifax police officers who are charged with assaulting a female prisoner with a Taser gun.

One night in September 2004, two police officers arrested Suzanne Silver for allegedly uttering death threats. She claims that veteran constables John Hope and Mark Galloway pushed their way into her mother's house and manhandled her.

By the time Silver was brought into the booking area at police headquarters, she was in a rage. As police surveillance cameras rolled, Silver launched into an uninterrupted tirade against the officers.

Then one of the officers threatened to use a Taser on her.

The hand-held stun guns deliver a jolt of electricity from up to 6.5 metres away. The shot can penetrate up to five centimetres of clothing, immobilizing the person targeted.

Silver was taken to a holding cell, where an altercation occurred. She claims she was hit with a Taser four times.

Galloway and Hope are charged with assault and committing an assault by carrying, using or threatening to use a weapon.

Crown attorney Darrell Carmichael says the case revolves around two questions:

"The first issue is whether the police officers entered that home lawfully and so were entitled to use force against Suzanne Silver, and the second issue is, if they were entitled to use force, did they use no more than reasonable force," he said.

One of the defence lawyers, Pat Duncan, says the officers acted properly.

"The defence will be advocating to the court that the arrest was lawful and that any use of force was appropriate to the circumstance," she said.

The trial has heard only the Crown's case. The two officers are expected to testify in their own defence when it resumes.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Use of taser at demo ruled 'unnecessary'

November 10, 2005
CBC News

An Ottawa police officer was found guilty Wednesay of "unnecessary exercise of authority." The Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services heard evidence from a man who was shot with a taser at a demonstration two years ago.

Paul Smith had arrived at a demonstration outside the office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada in downtown Ottawa just after 9 p.m., May 29, 2003.

About 50 people had turned out to protest the plight of 10 Algerian refugee claimants inside the office. Smith says he was taking pictures from the sidelines when two officers approached him.

"I have witnesses who say I wasn't doing anything. This guy wanted to get a protester," Smith says.

The commission heard that one officer held and handcuffed Smith, and then asked for help from another officer. That's when Sgt. Paulo Batista arrived and shot Smith with a taser gun as he lay on the ground. Smith was jolted a second time as he was dragged toward a police cruiser.

An internal police investigation originally cleared both officers. But Smith appealed that decision, and, on Wednesday, the independent commission found Batista guilty of using unnecessary force when he tasered Smith. The other officer was found "not guilty."

Smith's lawyer, Matthew McGarvey, says the process for people in Smith's situation is stacked in favour of the police.

For Paul Smith, there is no financial settlement attached to Wednesday's ruling. But, he says, it's reward enough to be vindicated.