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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sister of New Brunswick man who died after police taser attack calls for national ban

November 21, 2007

FREDERICTON - The sister of a New Brunswick man who died after police repeatedly shocked him with a Taser says the devices should be banned across Canada until their safety can be proven. Karen Geldart of Moncton, N.B., said Wednesday the furor over the death of a Polish man who was stunned with a police Taser at Vancouver International Airport is vindicating concerns she has had since her brother Kevin Geldart died in 2005.

Geldart, 34, died in a Moncton, N.B., bar after a confrontation with four RCMP officers. He was shocked so often, including to his head, that witnesses said the smell of burning flesh made it hard to breathe. "I don't want to sound macabre, but I'm satisfied there has been such a public outcry," Geldart said, referring to the national outpouring of concern over the videotaped death of Polish citizen, Robert Dziekanski, on Oct. 14. "I feel somewhat vindicated. Kevin, I believe, died in vain because other deaths occurred after he died. Let's hope that's not the case with Mr. Dziekanski's death."

Geldart said there should be a single, comprehensive and national review of the use of Tasers by all police forces in Canada. "A piecemeal approach won't work," she said.

There are already several inquiries and reviews that have been announced at provincial and federal levels. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has asked the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to review the force's use of Tasers, but has stopped short of the national independent inquiry that opposition parties and people such as Geldart are demanding.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has suspended its use of Tasers in the field and is reassessing a plan to buy more of the electrical devices.

Mike Quigley, director of policing services for New Brunswick, said the province is nearing the end of its review of Taser use. He said the province will soon announce a policy governing use of the weapons by municipal forces - a policy that will be passed along to the RCMP for its consideration. Quigley said a ban on Tasers is not on the agenda.

"It's basically a review of how they are used, under what circumstances they might be used and the fact that, in consideration of the use of the Taser device itself, police officers must consider all other standard force options available to them," he said.

Geldart died on the floor of a Moncton bar after four RCMP officers shocked and pepper-sprayed him into submission. The RCMP investigated its own officers involved in the incident and absolved them of any wrongdoing.

Medical experts said the multiple shocks - there were eight Taser wounds on Geldart, including three sets of marks on the back of his head - may have been a contributing factor to his death. But they insisted the cause of death was excited delirium - a state of agitated, exhaustive mania.

Karen Geldart said there are eerie similarities between her brother's death and Dziekanski's. She said her family was told by the RCMP that Kevin, who was mentally ill, was "combative and aggressive" and they had no choice but to use the Taser. She said the family was stunned to learn from witnesses that her brother had been acting strangely, but not violently, and seemed frightened by the police actions against him.

"To me, Mr. Dziekanski's death was deja vu," she said. "It was very eerie to hear the press releases coming out of the RCMP. It sounded a lot like what they said about Kevin. "To me they are using the same playbook they used with Kevin. There are a lot of scary similarities. If the incident had to occur, I'm relieved it was caught on tape."

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