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Monday, March 10, 2008

Video shows Mounties use Taser on disabled B.C. man

March 10, 2008
The Canadian Press/CBC

A video of a disabled man being jolted by a Taser inside the RCMP detachment in Kamloops, B.C., was released Monday, weeks after the man's death in an unrelated incident.

But hours after radio station CHNL obtained the video, the man's lawyer, who released it, tried to block its broadcast by citing a recent court decision.

John Dempsey, 45, had launched a civil suit last year against the police after the Taser incident in 2004, but the suit appears to have died with him.

Dempsey suffered from torsion dystonia, a muscle and movement disorder similar to Parkinson's disease.

His lawyer, Jamie Ashby, said Dempsey was arrested Oct. 23, 2004, and charged with obstruction of justice when he tried to intervene in the arrest of a friend, whom he thought was being handled too roughly.

Both men were later acquitted of criminal charges and launched lawsuits against the RCMP alleging they had been assaulted, Ashby said.

Dempsey was shot with the Taser after refusing to walk through a doorway and had wedged his foot in the door frame.

"They're trying to push me, so I put my foot up on the wall to push back and I told them 'Don't do that. It's not right.' They grabbed me right by the shirt and threw me down on the ground," Dempsey said in an interview with radio station CHNL last year.

Time-lapse video

On the time-lapse security video, one officer is seen throwing Dempsey to the floor while the second officer uses a Taser on the handcuffed man.

Before he died, Dempsey said he didn't file a complaint at the time of the Taser incident because officers told him he would have to stay in jail and he believed he would not have access to his medications.

"I asked the watch commander to come down," Dempsey said in the radio interview.

"He came down and said if you're going to make a complaint, you're going to stay in jail overnight, and I can't stay in jail overnight because I had to get home to get my medication, otherwise, I'd shake a lot more."

The B.C. Supreme Court suit alleged Dempsey was shot twice by Const. Darwin Robbins the night of his arrest as he awaited processing at the RCMP detachment.

Experimental medical equipment
The suit alleges an experimental piece of medical equipment known as a deep brain stimulator was destroyed by the Taser.

A legal fight has developed over publication of the video, which was obtained from the RCMP by Dempsey's lawyer during the discovery portion of the lawsuit.

"What happened is I had received permission from the family to release it," Ashby said.

"That hasn't changed but there's just some recent case law that might say otherwise so now we're kind of dealing with that. It was released in error and so … it's kind of in a state of flux. I've done what I can to try and get them not to play it yet."

Graham Stark, a lawyer with the federal Justice Department, said the RCMP has not moved in court to block broadcast of the video, but when asked whether it now was in the public domain, he replied: "I wouldn't go that far."

Dempsey died last month after walking into traffic on the Coquihalla highway.

"He's passed away so the case dies with him," Ashby said, but added his client's suit is still going ahead.

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