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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Family furious over Edmonton man's death

October 30, 2008
Nicole Dube, Trish Audette and Ben Gelinas, Canwest News Service

EDMONTON - The family of a man who died after Edmonton police tried twice to subdue him with a Taser are demanding to know why he had to die.

"It's the most horrific thing you could ask to have happen to you," Mandie Grimolfson said through tears Thursday as she talked about the death of her 38-year-old brother, Trevor Grimolfson. "They took my brother from us. They took a brother, a father, an uncle, a cousin. I want to know what happened. What gives them the right to kill my brother?"

Trevor Grimolfson had been fighting with a man at a west-end Edmonton tattoo parlour Wednesday. Police said he was resisting arrest and that they "deployed" a Taser twice, to no effect, before Grimolfson was wrestled to the ground. He lost consciousness after he was handcuffed, police said, and was pronounced dead at hospital.

"We're very shocked and we're very angry," said Grimolfson's cousin, Melissa Bell. "We don't understand why they used a Taser."

Family said Trevor Grimolfson had two children who were living with his mother: a 17-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son.

Mandie Grimolfson, 32, who lives in Selkirk, north of Winnipeg, said her brother had been having "personal problems" with the owner of a pawnshop next door to a tattoo parlour he was planning to open.

"He was angry," she acknowledged. "They were arguing. Fighting, I guess. Someone called the cops. They showed up, and that is their method of restraint - to kill him. He was alone and unarmed."

An autopsy was conducted Thursday.

"We need toxicology work done on the deceased's blood," said Clifton Purvis, head of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates deaths that may have been caused by police. "At this point, I'm not even prepared to say for sure that the Taser deployment was successful."

The autopsy results should determine whether Grimolfson was intoxicated at the time of his takedown. Witnesses said he appeared pale and was acting erratically.

"My brother liked to party. Everyone who knows him and loves him knows that," Mandie Grimolfson said. "But he wasn't high on drugs and drugs never killed my brother. Cops killed my brother."

"The incident is being reviewed," Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said Thursday. "These are constantly reviewed to ensure there's a balance here. There's also the safety of our police officers in these situations, as well, so we're awaiting the full investigation of this particular incident."

Alberta Solicitor General Fred Lindsay said he has complete confidence in how police officers use Tasers in Alberta. "I'm very proud that the guidelines that we have in this province are some of the strictest in our country," he said Thursday afternoon.

"I want to go on record as saying that, of all the thousands of times that a Taser has been used in this province, it has saved thousands of lives. The alternative in a lot of cases is lethal force."

The Liberal Party of Alberta has called for the Alberta government to introduce "more stringent regulation of Taser use."

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