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Friday, November 23, 2007

Family fears worst for taser victim now on life support

November 23, 2007
John Colebourn, CanWest News Service

VANCOUVER -- The family of a Chilliwack man sent to hospital after a confrontation with RCMP fears he may not recover. Robert Knipstrom, 36, of Chilliwack is on life-support at Surrey Memorial Hospital after being hit with a baton, Tasered and wrestled by police Monday when he resisted arrest.

His uncle, William Knipstrom, last night said the family is holding out little hope for him. "It doesn't look good," William said after family gathered for the day at the hospital where Knipstrom lies in the intensive care unit. "We fear the worst. We will know more tomorrow," added the uncle of the tight-knit family.

The younger Knipstrom, who runs a small tree-trimming company in the Fraser Valley, was transferred from Chilliwack General to Surrey Memorial Hospital Wednesday after it was determined he needed additional care.

Chilliwack RCMP Const. Lea-Anne Dunlop said a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the violent arrest continues. She said Knipstrom was "extremely agitated, aggressive and combative" when approached by two officers in the 45800-block of Airport Road. Other officers were called to help subdue him, she said. "He is known to us and we have had violent confrontations with him in the past," she said.

Dunlop said police are trying to piece together an earlier incident in which Knipstrom is believed to have been responsible for a hit-and-run accident just prior to his confrontation with the Mounties. Dunlop would not confirm if drugs were found in Knipstrom's system as has been speculated. "There is a legal process we have to go through to confirm those facts," she said. The officers involved in the incident remain on active duty.

Some who knew Knipstrom said they are amazed at the amount of force police used to take down the five-foot six-inch tall man who weighed no more than 150 pounds. Lex Carstensen went to high school with Knipstrom and gave him a job at his company that services the movie industry. "It seems so odd that they needed so much force with this little guy," he said. "He was one of those guys who everybody got along with. That's what seems so out of character. People are surprised the RCMP couldn't contain this little guy."

Cheryl Funk remembers Knipstrom from his bartending job at the Wildcat Grill in Rosedale two years ago. "He was a great guy," she said. "He always had a smile on his face. We are in shock over this. He didn't deserve this."

Knipstrom was also involved in the local Herbalife distributorship. Distributor Jenny Clough was told by the family that Knipstrom suffered a heart attack. "His parents phoned and said he went into cardiac arrest in the hospital," she said. Simone Black has known Knipstrom since grade school and called him "charismatic and outgoing." "He was a legend," she said. "He was always there for you as a friend -- he was that type of person," said Black. "He was not a big guy. They billy clubbed him, pepper sprayed him and used the Taser on him. It is a very sad situation."

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