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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Taser inquiry will go ahead into airport death despite no charge decision

July 3, 2008
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — A public inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant after being shocked by an RCMP Taser is going ahead even though Crown prosecutors have not made a decision on charges in the incident at Vancouver's airport.

Commissioner Thomas Braidwood announced that his inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski will start Oct. 20, before a coroner's inquest or any decision on possible charges against Mounties connected to the incident.

Inquiry spokesman Chris Freimond says the coroner requested the public inquiry be held before an inquest.

"The second phase of the inquiry was being held back until the RCMP had completed its inquiry into the incident at the airport," Freimond says.

The Lower Mainland's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team recently handed its charge-assessment report to the Crown without making a recommendation either for or against charges being laid against any of the officers.

The first phase of the B.C. public inquiry looked into general police use of the stun gun. The second phase, looking specifically at Dziekanski's case, has the potential to find misconduct in connection to his death.

Freimond says Braidwood decided to push ahead with the second phase until they hear about possible charges from the Crown.

"(Braidwood) will then make a decision as to whether or not he will continue with the second phase. It will depend on whether charges are laid and what those are," he says.

Dziekanski died shortly after being shocked by a Taser when he was confronted by four RCMP officers last October in the international arrivals area of the airport.

The would-be immigrant had been waiting at the airport for several hours for his mother. RCMP were summoned by airport security after an agitated Dziekanski smashed an airport computer and vandalized other airport property.

A bystander's videotape of the event was broadcast worldwide on TV and the Internet, and set off a public outcry.

The death also launched several inquiries into Taser use by police, including an investigation by RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner Paul Kennedy and the Commons Public Safety Committee.

After the release of Kennedy's scathing report last month, the RCMP said it would restrict Taser use and give officers clearer direction on how and when to use the weapons.

Braidwood is expected to release recommendations from the first phase of his inquiry by November. No date has been determined for the release of his findings from the second phase.

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