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Monday, October 22, 2007

Lawyer says taser overused by police

October 22, 2007
KATHY RUMLESKI, London Free Press

A London [Ontario] lawyer isn't surprised to hear a 34-year-old Londoner suffered a heart attack after being tasered by police last week. Ron Ellis said yesterday he warned the province at two cases linking deaths to police tasers that there would be more tragedies. At an inquest in 2005, Ellis represented Cathy Colborne, the wife of Peter Lamonday, who died minutes after London police shocked him with the 50,000-volt taser during a rampage along Hamilton Road in 2004. The inquest found Lamonday's death was a result of a cocaine-induced excited delirium, but Ellis said he told those involved more deaths would result from taser use.

"I said, 'This is not the end. When this happens again, you're going to have to answer to it.' I've told that to several people, the coroners, crown and others."

In the last month, three men have died in Canada after being tasered. Ellis is pushing for an inquest into the July 2004 death of another London client's husband, Jerry Knight, who was tasered multiple times at a Brampton hotel.

Ellis is critical of the provincial coroner's office in the Knight case, saying it has failed to supply him with all the information about the death. "They keep telling me there's a backlog of cases, but that was 2004."

Coroner's office personnel could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ellis said Knight had a small amount of cocaine in his system when he was tasered. The taser can be fatal if used on someone who is on drugs, has mental-health problems or is diabetic.

"I'm not anti-taser. I think they can be a very effective device, he said. "But they're over-utilized. (Police) are told it's a (quick) device to take people down safety. If the officers knew people could die from it, they wouldn't taser them."

Former NHL player Ryan VandenBussche said yesterday he feels lucky he wasn't seriously injured or killed when he was tasered several times by police at a Turkey Point bar.

"I don't really remember the occurrence, but after watching it on the news I felt very lucky because I was apparently tasered three times. They left marks on me," said VandenBussche, who lives in Vittoria, near Port Dover.

"They are obviously not the safest thing. They might want to do a little more research. You don't want anyone dying."

A constable has filed a lawsuit against VandenBussche, alleging he was assaulted during the incident. VandenBussche said the lawsuit is still outstanding.

Meanwhile the province's Special Investigations Unit continues to probe the circumstances surrounding the tasering of the London man at a residence last Monday.

A family member said Saturday the man -- whose name has not been released -- is recovering well in hospital. An update on his condition could not be obtained yesterday.

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