May 11 2008
Pam Douglas, Staff Writer, The Caledon Enterprise
An inquest has been called into the death of a Brampton boxer who was zapped with a Peel police Taser four years ago. Jerry Knight, 29, died July 17, 2004 during a violent struggle in a Mississauga motel lobby.
The coroner at the time ruled out the use of the Taser stun gun as a factor in Knight’s death following a post mortem. Knight died from “restraint asphyxia” with cocaine-related excited delirium, a post mortem revealed.
Because Knight was in Peel police custody at the time of his death, an inquest is mandatory and will examine all force options available to police.
The inquest begins June 3 and will last three weeks. Dr. William Lucas will preside over the inquest, which is expected to hear from 18 to 20 witnesses at the Brampton Provincial Courthouse on Ray Lawson Boulevard.
The Peel officers involved in the incident were cleared of any wrongdoing by the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) two months after Knight’s death. The coroner found no evidence that the Taser or pepperspray used to try to subdue Knight played a role in his death. In fact, witnesses said Knight continued to struggle with police after he was hit in the back with the electric pulse of the Taser.
Excitation delirium is a state in which an individual’s body produces so much adrenaline that the heart goes out of rhythm. Being restrained while in that state can cause death. The syndrome has been linked to cocaine use and the use of a prone-position restraint hold, particularly “hog-tying”, according to a study co-written in 1998 by Ontario Chief Coroner Dr. James Young.
Knight struggled violently with police for 20 minutes in the early morning hours of July 17, according to the SIU report. Pepperspray had no effect on him and he only “slowed momentarily” when hit in the back with the Taser, but then resumed his violent struggle. He bit a police officer several times and tried to pull his gun out of its holster.
He was subdued only after being hog-tied, according to the SIU investigation. “This was indeed a tragic outcome to a very difficult situation,” said SIU Director James Cornish at the time. “It is clear that the officers had grounds to arrest Mr. Knight and it is also abundantly clear that Mr. Knight violently resisted the efforts of the officers to arrest him.” One officer was bitten several times and two others were also injured.
The incident raised speculation in the media about the use of the Taser.
At 1:46 a.m. a clerk at the White Knight Motel called 9-1-1 to report an unruly guest. Knight was acting “strangely and belligerently” in the lobby, the SIU determined. A trained boxer, Knight was in “excellent physical condition”. Knight had been detained by Peel police officers under the Mental Health Act for “erratic behaviour” on three separate occasions before the July confrontation. In the lobby, he threw business cards, pulled the fire alarm and tried to vault the front counter.
Knight tried to run when a male officer and two female officers arrived. In their attempt to arrest Knight, the male officer grabbed him from behind while the two female officers attempted to grab his legs. He resisted and screamed as they tried to handcuff him.
The officers sent out an emergency call for help and in the end 17 more officers responded.
See also: Stun gun company planning to monitor autopsy
See also: Ontario coroner hit for taser link
See also: Taser manufacturer picked up Ontario coroner's tab
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Sunday, May 11, 2008
May 11 2008