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Friday, August 29, 2008

Family wants inquiry into taser death

August 29, 2008
Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL - Ask Marie-Jésula Registre whether she feels any anger over the fact a police taser that fires a 50,000-volt charge was used six times on her son Quilem and she replies softly, her eyes rimmed with tears. "I'm a Christian. I don't keep anger in my heart. But this has been devastating blow for myself and our family. He was our only son."

Maria-Jesula, her husband Augustin-François and their, daughters Francine and Chantal, met with reporters Friday after a Quebec coroner added more questions to those the Registre family have had since Quilem's death on Oct. 18, 2008, days after being tasered by Montreal police officers.

"The main question is: 'Why?'," said Evans Sanelus, Quilem's cousin, "No one deserved the fate (Quilem experienced), no matter what they've done in life. If a (police officer) is there to do their job, their first objective is to protect and to analyse a situation before intervening."

Quilem's father called for an independent, public inquiry into his son's death, an exercise he said would result in "justice" being done.

That call for a public inquiry, echoed by Dan Philip of the Black Coalition of Quebec, follows the publication of a coroner's report into Registre's death that concludes that while the cocaine and alcohol in Registre's system may have contributed to his demise, the fact police found it necessary to subdue him with six 50,000-volt electrical charges made it "difficult to believe (the taserings) played no role in his death."

Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier was also critical of the lack of information personnel at Sacré Coeur Hospital received about Registre's condition once he was transported by Urgences Santé from the scene of his arrest on Rivard St. for running a stop sign. "Mr. Registre was first received at Sacré Coeur Hospital as a traffic accident victim who was intoxicated," she wrote. "The treating physicians deplored ... the fact they had been given so little details on the use of (a Taser) and Mr. Registre's condition beforehand."

Rudel-Tessier also noted she was unable to personally interview the two officers who arrested Registre, their version of events provided to her only in incident reports filed two days after his arrest on Oct. 16 and one day before his death.

"I therefore have no explanation why the use of other forms of force (rather than the Taser) were insufficient or inefficient," she wrote. "I had no access to the process of their decision making nor any details on their strategic thinking. We can ask if there was another way, other means of subduing Mr. Registre and calming him. Since he was visibly agitated, one would think back-up could have been called in, ambulance technicians in particular, since this was a medical emergency. Even if Mr. Registre did not pull a gun, was the fact he didn't respond to an order to raise his hands sufficient reason to immediate resort to (the Taser)?"

What the coroner did glean from the police reports was that only one of the two officers who arrested Registre - who they described as being "hysterical" after attempting to drive away from the traffic stop and slamming his car into another vehicle parked nearby - was trained to use a Taser.

Rudel-Tessier recommended that the Montreal police ensure all members of a team equipped with a Taser be trained to use it, and that training programs educate officers in how to restrain a suspect once they've been it with an electrical charge.

She also called on Quebec's Public Security Department to examine the possibility of ordering the province's police departments to equip their tasers with cameras to record the circumstances of their use.

A spokesperson for Claude Dauphin, chairperson of the city's executive committee and responsible for public security, said the police department has been asked to examine the coroner's findings and produce a report that would detail what changes, if necessary, would be made to existing procedures.

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