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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Son had problems, father of tasered man says

June 24, 2008
The Canadian Press

SIMCOE, Ont. — An Ontario man who died in police custody after being shocked by police with a taser gun had a drug problem and recently lost his job, his father said Tuesday.

Jeffrey Marreel, 36, died after Ontario Provincial Police responded to a disturbance in the town of Norfolk, Ont., near Simcoe on Monday.

The man had a history of drug problems and lost his job at a flower shop two weeks ago, his father Noel Marreel said in an interview.

Mr. Marreel, who also broke up with his girlfriend in the last month, was likely on drugs when he was approached by police at about 10:30 a.m. Monday, his father said.

“I suspect he was (using drugs),” said Mr. Marreel. “He was on a down cycle.”

Police say Mr. Marreel was transported to the Norfolk County provincial police station after being hit with the stun gun, where he collapsed.

Officers performed first aid on Mr. Marreel until paramedics arrived.

He was pronounced dead in hospital about two hours after the initial incident.

Jeffrey Marreel had no fixed address and drifted between the homes of friends and family, his father said.

In Toronto, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Rick Bartolucci said the province will not be calling for a moratorium on taser use in the wake the incident.

“Ontario has a very, very measured approach to the use of tasers,” said Mr. Bartolucci, who added a provincial report on the use of the stun guns is scheduled to be released in December.

Last week, the RCMP announced it would restrict taser firings following a report into what critics call “usage creep.”

The officers in the federal police force will have a clearer direction on how and when a taser should be used, chairman Paul Kennedy said at the time.

He also said all people stunned using tasers should receive medical attention, a point that is “particularly relevant for at-risk populations, such as people with mental-health issues, substance-abuse problems, health and homelessness challenges.”

Some 21 people have died in Canada after being stuck with tasers.

Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died in October after being repeatedly zapped by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport. A video of his final moments added to the debate about the use of tasers.

Amnesty International Canada has repeatedly called for a temporary moratorium on the stun guns, pending an independent study of its possible risks.

Because Mr. Marreel died in police custody, Ontario's Special Investigation Unit is probing the incident.

An autopsy was scheduled to be performed in Hamilton on Tuesday.

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