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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Halifax man dies after being shot with Taser

November 22, 2007


HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia Justice Minister Cecil Clarke has ordered a ministerial review into the use of Tasers in Nova Scotia after the death of a 45-year-old man at the Nova Scotia Correctional Facility early Thursday morning.

"I have ordered police services officials in my department to immediately begin a review of policies and procedures regarding Taser use in Nova Scotia," said Clarke. "At the same time, RCMP are being called in to investigate the circumstances of the death at the correctional facility and I understand Halifax Regional Police will also have the RCMP conduct an external investigation into the arrest.

"I also want to offer my condolences to the family at this difficult time."
The review will examine Taser practices of authorized users in the province, including law enforcement, corrections and sheriffs.

The man was shot with a Taser in a Dartmouth, N.S. jail. He died Thursday morning at the Burnside correctional centre, nearly a day after the Taser was used on him. It is not clear which police force shot the man, or whether it was a correctional guard.

There are reports the man may have been involved in a separate incident after the shooting that might have played a role in his death.

No other details are available.

John Tackaberry, a spokesman with Amnesty International, called the incident "disturbing. "The disturbing part is that it's in custody as well," he said.

Tackaberry said Amnesty had already raised "serious concerns," in a report, about the use of Tasers in facilities "when people are already in custody and being restrained." The province's chief medical officer is also investigating the death.

The deputy chief of the Halifax Regional Police Department will give an update on the incident Thursday afternoon.

Last Tuesday, Clarke issued a statement saying that the provincial Justice Department was reinforcing with people who use Tasers on the job the need to be "aware of policies and procedures.

"We have highly trained and skilled law enforcement, correctional workers and sheriffs in our justice system," Clarke said. "However, given recent events, we are asking that all those authorized to use Tasers review the policies and procedures for safe and proper use."

This incident is the latest in a series of Taser incidents in recent weeks.

Criticism has been mounting over the use of Tasers by police since the death of Robert Dziekanski on Oct. 14 at Vancouver International Airport. Dziekanski, 40, had been in a secure area of the airport for 10 hours before being tasered twice by RCMP officers after he became agitated. He died a short time later. Video of the event, which was filmed by a bystander, has been seen around the world.

The high-profile case of the Polish immigrant has prompted several investigations including a review called by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day on the use of Tasers by the RCMP. The assessment is expected by Dec. 12. A report by the Canada Border Services Agency should also be delivered within days that will explain its role in the Dziekanski incident.

Another incident earlier this week saw a man in Chilliwack, B.C., tasered by police and sent to hospital where he was in stable condition on Wednesday.

Amnesty International considers 17 people to have died in Canada since 2001 after the use of stun-guns by police. Today's case and that of Claudio Castagnetta, 32, who died in Quebec City on Sept. 20 two days after being Tasered, are also being reviewed.

Taser guns use two barbed darts to deliver a jolt of up to 50,000 volts. They are intended to temporarily paralyze someone by causing muscles to contract uncontrollably.

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