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Friday, November 09, 2007

Robert Dziekanski's mother given video of his final moments

November 9, 2007
JUSTINE HUNTER, Globe and Mail

VICTORIA -- Either today or early next week, Zofia Cisowski will sit down in her living room and choose whether to watch a disturbing video that shows her son's final minutes. The mother of 40-year-old Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died Oct. 14 minutes after RCMP officers shocked him with a taser gun, will finally have access to the graphic images of the incident taken by a bystander.

Yesterday, the federal RCMP watchdog formally launched a complaint into the incident, promising an investigation into the use of tasers and into the RCMP's subsequent investigation of its own members' conduct.

Meanwhile, Ms. Cisowski's lawyer was making arrangements yesterday to bring his client a copy of the video, returned this week by the RCMP to the man who captured the images. "It's a horrible situation," her lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj, said yesterday. "I said, 'Do you want to see it?' She said, 'I don't, but I do.' These are the last moments of her son." He is still not certain she will press the play button on the video, but he expects the tape to be made public shortly after he gives her a copy.

Mr. Dziekanski, apparently disoriented and unable to communicate in English or French, spent more than 10 hours inside Vancouver International Airport before emerging into a secure area in a rage. The RCMP were called to restrain him, and used the stun gun at least twice. An autopsy has failed to determine what caused Mr. Dziekanski's death. That will likely be decided by a coroner's inquest.

It is unclear what happened after Mr. Dziekanski's flight from Europe arrived. His mother was at the airport waiting to pick him up, but couldn't find him. She said her son spoke no English and had never travelled on an airplane before.

According to court documents, Victoria resident Paul Pritchard videotaped high-quality footage of "Mr. Dziekanski before the arrival of police, during Mr. Dziekanski's interaction with police, and after Mr. Dziekanski was apparently unconscious or deceased on the ground." Mr. Pritchard's lawyer, Paul Pearson, said yesterday his client has agreed to allow Ms. Cisowski to view the tape in her Kamloops home before he makes it public. Mr. Kosteckyj, who has watched the video, said: "You are going to see something that is going to make the Canadian public think this was senseless. Eyewitness testimony can be sometimes inexact. But this is a recorded image that shows you everything." He said he was "horrified" by what he saw. "Within 24 seconds of police arrival, he was tasered the first time."

Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, announced yesterday he will investigate both the conduct of police who fired tasers at Mr. Dziekanski, and the RCMP's criminal investigation into the man's death. The RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is still investigating the airport incident, although the officers involved are still on active duty. Corporal Dale Carr, a spokesman for the team, said yesterday he expects the RCMP investigation to take another 45 days.

Mr. Kennedy, as chairman of the federal agency that provides independent civilian review of RCMP members' conduct in performing their policing duties, said he has raised concerns in the past about police use of tasers. He also has appointed observers to the RCMP's investigation to ensure it is impartial. In an interview yesterday, Mr. Kennedy said he has moved quickly - before the police have finished their own investigation - because of the tremendous public interest. "This one is clearly significant. It looks like a very tragic situation and one that brings to the fore a number of issues we have dealt with in the past," he said.

In his formal notice of complaint, Mr. Kennedy wrote that he will look into "the degree and type of force required by police officers when effecting an arrest and, as in this case, the specific concerns raised in respect of the use of a conducted energy weapon; and the propriety of the police investigating the police."

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