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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Family of Alberta man who died after hit by RCMP stun gun questions use of taser

April 22, 2008

LACOMBE, Alta. - The sister of an Alberta man who died after being zapped by an RCMP Taser hopes a fatality inquiry will explain why an officer jolted him three times and what role the stun gun may have played in his death.

Jason Doan scuffled with three Mounties just after noon on Aug. 10, 2006, after a man was seen damaging vehicles in a Red Deer neighbourhood.

RCMP said they hit Doan with a Taser three times after he struck an officer with a shovel handle. As a struggling Doan lay prone on the ground with one wrist handcuffed, shocks of up to 50,000 volts were shot into his body. When Mounties rolled him over after the third shock, his face was blue.

The strapping 28-year-old pipeline worker went into cardiac arrest. He then suffered seizures and plunged into a deep coma, dying in hospital three weeks later. He never regained consciousness.

"We want to know why he died. We want to know why a 28-year-old man, who is completely strong, ends up dying from being in a coma. If it wasn't the Taser, then what was it?" asked his sister, Surya Doan, 36, who is speaking out for the first time.

The confrontation happened more than a year before Robert Dziekanski, 40, died at Vancouver International Airport after he was stunned twice with a Taser and wrestled to the ground by RCMP. The Polish man's death, caught on video by another passenger, set off an international uproar over Taser safety.

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In Doan's case, the medical examiner listed three factors on the death certificate: excited delirium, heart failure and undetermined causes. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system.

Doan had no criminal record.

A censored RCMP Taser report obtained by The Canadian Press and the CBC under the Access to Information Act says police believed or suspected that cocaine or alcohol "had an impact on the suspect."

It is believed to be the report filed after the Doan confrontation, although the exact date and his name were stripped. Other details included in the form match what happened that day.

The report says that the suspect was aware that RCMP were going to use what the Mounties call a "conducted energy weapon" and that the suspect was warned three times - each time before he was shocked with the stun gun.

The report also says the use of the Taser avoided injuries to the suspect and police.

Surya Doan said her family is still devastated by Jason's death. A provincial court judge in Red Deer is to set the terms and date for the inquiry on Wednesday. Such inquiries cannot assess blame but may make recommendations on how to avoid similar deaths.

"These are questions that our family would like to know. Why his death certificate says undetermined? We would like to know why it says that he died of excited delirium, which is a psychiatric term. It is not a medical term," said Doan, 36, who teaches special needs students.

"We certainly don't understand the effects of the Taser on his body. We have questions as a family and we need them answered. For two years we have asked for them to be answered."

Faced with media questions about the Doan case following Dziekanski's death, RCMP in Red Deer held an information session on Tasers.

Supt. Brian Simpson called the stun guns a safe weapon. He also said the Mounties have adequate training and accountability protocols that work.

That doesn't make sense to Surya Doan, who said she cried when she watch Dziekanski struggle and die on video more than a year after her brother did. She wonders why RCMP needed to stun Jason three times.

"I could understand maybe once that they (Tasered) him, just to subdue him. Maybe I could even understand twice. But the third time and they turned him over and he was blue? He couldn't have been fighting that hard. The physical body does not fight when you have no oxygen."

Doan said her brother was treated like a criminal even when he was in hospital, his arms tied to a bed with leather restraints.

And she is still haunted by the memory of watching the man she grew up with waste away from his injuries.

"A week later, my brother was wearing diapers. His body just completely stopped functioning. To see a young man who was that strong and had such strength and endurance to be in that state is very, very painful to watch," she said, softly crying.

An RCMP spokesman declined to comment on the Doan inquiry other than to say that it is important for the judge to reach her own conclusions and recommendations.

Taser report forms from the RCMP show that Mounties have used the stun guns more than 4,000 times since introducing them seven years ago. The RCMP has more than 2,800 Tasers and some 9,100 Mounties are trained to use them.

Arizona-based manufacturer Taser International has stressed the device has never been directly blamed for a death. It has, however, been cited repeatedly as a contributing factor.

Surya Doan said she hopes the fatality inquiry will force police and governments to take a hard look at how Tasers are used.

"I don't think that they should be using them at all if they haven't more of an understanding," she said. "I'm not quite sure how we as a society have bought into the fact that it is OK to stun people with it."

1 comment:

Stun Guns said...

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