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Monday, October 22, 2007

Witness's video to help inquiry in taser death

October 22, 2007
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- RCMP say they have a clear video showing a confrontation at Vancouver International Airport in which a Polish immigrant died after he was tasered by Mounties trying to subdue him.

Corporal Dale Carr said the video, voluntarily turned over to police by a man who taped last weekend's incident, will be helpful in their investigation of the altercation, which has spurred debate on the police use of tasers.

"Are we fortunate that we have nice, clear, concise video of what transpired? It's fortunate," said Cpl. Carr, a spokesman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, which is looking into the matter.

"It covers the entire incident," he said. "It's been very helpful. It demonstrates and shows what went on from [the videographer's] eye and helps us ensure that what people are saying is what they saw."

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He said the "very clear" video is superior to footage shot by another witness, who recorded images of the incident with her cellphone camera.

While there was fixed video surveillance of the area where the incident occurred, none of the cameras were equipped to record images, he said.

Cpl. Carr said he has not seen all of the tape, but he's been told by investigators that it covers the entire incident. He said he was not sure if there was audio recorded on the tape.

Police were called in to deal with Robert Dziekanski after he began acting erratically, yelling, pounding on windows and throwing computer equipment in the international arrivals area of Vancouver Airport.

The 40-year-old resident of the Polish community of Pieszyce had arrived in Vancouver to begin living with his mother, a resident of Kamloops. She had travelled to the airport to meet her only son.

Police have said he was subdued with a taser, which fired off a 50,000-volt charge. Mr. Dziekanski was handcuffed, but went into distress and died on the scene.

An autopsy has failed to confirm a cause of death, prompting toxicology tests on samples removed from his remains. A coroner's inquest is being planned into the incident because Mr. Dziekanski died in police custody.

Cpl. Carr said the investigation is "far from finished" and that the investigators should "not hang their hat on one piece of evidence."

He said he is not sure if police will ever be in a position to release the video to the public while the investigation is ongoing and that the video might be held if it is to be played at the inquest.

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