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Saturday, September 20, 2008

SIU determines cause of taser death

September 20, 2008
Bob Mitchell, Toronto Star

Investigators probing this week's in-custody Tasering death of a Brampton man know why Sean Reilly died but for now they're holding back details.

Ian Smith, a lawyer acting for the Reilly family, told the Star today they've only been given a "brief report" and certainly "nothing definitive" about why Reilly, 42, died early Wednesday morning at Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga.

Reilly, who was still mourning the recent death of his sister, was arrested about 4 p.m. the day before but was Tasered during a struggle with four Peel Police officers at12 Division police station soon after arriving at about 5 p.m. He died on Wednesday about 4:45 a.m.

The province's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is probing the deadly incident and will determine if criminal charges are warranted against the four officers.

Reilly, who was single and worked as a carpenter and has been described as a "non-violent" and "friendly man" by relatives and friends.

A post mortem was conducted Friday, SIU spokesperson John Yoannou said.

"The investigation is ongoing with officer interviews being conducted over the weekend," Yoannou said yesterday.

Although not unheard of, it's rare for the SIU not to release results of an autopsy once the post mortem examination is completed.

Events leading up to Reilly's Tasering remain uncertain. The investigation is centring on what the four officers named as subjects did during the frantic moments of the Tasering. Another Peel officer has been named as a witness to the incident, which one police source said started in the sally port (garage entrance) to the police station located at Dixie Rd. and Eglinton Ave. in Mississauga.

Peel Police are prohibited from speaking about any incident being probed by the SIU.

In a statement released late Friday afternoon by Smith, he said the family was co-operating with the SIU and were anxious to find "the truth" as to what happened.

"The Reilly family is very concerned to find out exactly how Sean came to his death," Smith said,. "They are concerned about Sean's treatment while he was in the custody of the Peel Police, and in particular, they are concerned that Sean was subjected to electric shock by a Taser stun gun.

"They are eager to know all of the circumstances surrounding the decision to use such force. Like many other Canadians, the Reilly family wonders why Canadian police forces persist in the use of such a dangerous device."

Although no details about the incident - and what led to the Tasering - are being released, a police source told te Star that officers went to a home on Runningbrook Dr. in Mississauga just before 4 p.m. after receiving a 911 call from a motorist about a suspected impaired driver. When police arrived, Reilly was standing outside of his vehicle with another man. Reilly was arrested and charged with assault with a weapon and placed into the back seat of a cruiser.

In addition to losing his sister to sleep apnea about two weeks ago, Reilly's father died in 1992, a loss he never got over, according to his uncle Bernie Reilly, who told the Mississauga News this week that his nephew possibly was carrying his late father's knife when the incident occurred. "It was his Dad's Korean War knife and he "simply carried it to be close to his Dad, whom he deeply loved and missed," he said. He said his nephew hadn't been sleeping well since the death of his sister.

Yoannou said he has no information about the knife, including whether it played any role in what happened.

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