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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Man in Edmonton dies after taser hit

October 30, 2008

CALGARY — A man in Edmonton has died after being hit "at least twice" with a taser as police attempted to quell a disturbance inside a pawn shop, officials said yesterday.

Police were called to Dan's Pawn Shop in the city's west end at about 11 a.m., responding to a report of a man smashing things and making threats.

"The officers located the suspect in a store, where he was acting erratic, threatening the occupants and breaking windows," police spokesman Jeff Wuite said in a statement.

Police deployed a taser "at least twice," Mr. Wuite added, but it had no effect on the man.

That's when the man ran at the two officers, police said. The officers wrestled him to the ground and placed him in handcuffs as the man continued to resist. At that point, the man lost consciousness and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Police haven't identified the man, but family members say he's Trevor Grimolfson, 38. Born in Selkirk, Man., Mr. Grimolfson moved to Alberta more than a decade ago. He ran a tattoo parlour, and had brushes with the law, spending time in jail for minor crimes, said his aunt, Barb, who lives in Petersfield, Man. The woman, who didn't want her last name published, said her family is reeling over the use of the taser on Mr. Grimolfson.

"They gotta stop that. They just gotta stop that. If he was out of hand, shoot him in the leg or something. It's not going to kill him," the grieving woman told The Globe and Mail last night. "Even if it was a serious crime or not, it doesn't merit the tasering."

The man had been in hospital earlier this week, and was, as such, "not in the best health to begin with," his aunt said, but she believes the taser was an overreaction.

"I find those things are excessive force. I wouldn't hold it against the actual officer, but why haven't these things been banned? Take them out of police hands," she said.

Melissa Bell, Mr. Grimolfson's cousin, added the family is "sad and very angry."

Witnesses offered conflicting reports about events leading up to the tasering.

Patrick Saunders told CTV News in Edmonton that he had gone to the pawn shop to meet the man. They were working together on a demolition project. At some point, Mr. Saunders said, the man became enraged, was sweating, and began chasing him down the sidewalk.

One witness told local CBC News that he was attacked by a man in a nearby tattoo shop who appeared to be agitated and sweating profusely.

Sheila Boddy, who arrived in the pawn shop as the scuffle was under way, told CTV she heard several tasers being used.

"The guy comes over in a rampage, smashed at the door with his fist, took a couple of swings at the owner, then he went inside and started smashing the place up," she said, adding that police weren't able to get him under control.

Edmonton police were told not to discuss the incident further and referred inquiries to the solicitor-general's office.

Alberta's Serious Incident Response Team is now investigating. It will probe police actions and determine whether criminal charges or other sanctions are warranted.

The use of the electronic stun guns have come under fire in recent years, but criticism of the device reached new heights when Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died last year after being tasered at the Vancouver International Airport.

Mr. Dziekanski also appeared to be agitated and sweating profusely before RCMP officers tasered him.

The gadget's maker, Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., has faced numerous wrongful-death and product-liability lawsuits, but most of the cases have been thrown out.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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