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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A woman's regret on anniversary of taser death

October 14, 2008

It's been a year since a Polish immigrant died at Vancouver International Airport after being subdued by a police Taser gun.

The death of Robert Dziekanski sent shockwaves around the world, and is still at the center of several investigations.

In a report that marks the first of a two-part series, CTV talked to a woman who witnessed Dziekanski's final moments and says she wishes she could have done more to save his life.

"Now I keep thinking I should have gone the other way. I should have done more, just to hold him," says Sima Ashrafinia Ashrafinia says she was conditioned in Iran to fear police and to respect barriers like gates and glass walls. "I feel like I failed myself by not breaking the authority's law in the airport and pass that barrier and go and hug Robert. I didn't do that," she said.

Dziekanski had arrived from Poland at the airport at 3:30 p.m. on October 13th, 2007. He did not clear immigration until midnight, when he was finally escorted out to the semi-secure area. The now exhausted 40-year old immigrant didn't know where to wait for his mother

Ashrafinia first noticed Dziekanski when she was in the public waiting area. He was yelling and clearly upset. Using body language, she calmed the frazzled fellow- immigrant down several times, something the Mounties did not appear to try. "I did calm him down. And I am not a specialist in human behaviour,'' she said. "I'm a simple person who tries to do the right thing."

It appeared his lack of English caused Dziekanski to become confused and angry. And that may have contributed directly to his death. "Tasering became the solution? Is that right..? Because I don't see any explanation," said Ashrafinia.

In an interview in October 2007, RCMP Sgt. Pierre LeMaitre said three officers arrived to deal with Dziekanski. "They weren't getting through to him and the violence escalated,'' he said.

Ashrafinia waited almost two hours to tell RCMP investigators what she saw that night, only to be told her statement wasn't needed. When Ashrafinia heard what the RCMP were telling reporters about Dziekanski, and how it didn't match with what she witnessed, she felt it didn't ring true. "Their spokesperson was saying he was combative. He was not. He was not. He was just an upset guy," she said.

The death of Dziekanski has caused so much turmoil in her life, Ashrafinia's marriage is coming apart over it.

"My soon-to-be-ex-husband said, it is none of your business. Why did you call and report it? Who do you think you are?" she said. "I am a proud Canadian. That's who I am, and I have to do the right thing."

For Sima Ashrafinia, who fled the violence of Iran, the Tasering of Robert Dziekanski is horror enough. But the lack of police disclosure and accountability since his death, horrifies her even more.

"Unfortunately I see lots of similarity-- maybe different reason-- but lots of similarity between this civilized country and that uncivilized country. And that breaks my heart," she said.


Anonymous said...

The coroner knows or never will, the results should have been announced a long long time ago. This is a witch hunt or total cover up by the RCMP. I no longer have faith in the process or the RCMP.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to Sima for her courage and for having such an unfeeling husband. Good riddance to him I say. Today it is one year since Robert was killed by the RCMP and the truth has still not come out while the RCMP consistently try to twist and hide the truth while they protect their own - killers with tasers. How sad for Robert's mother and everyone who has a conscience.

Anonymous said...

RCMp is becoming out of Hand, Opp has Fortino how did that happen, well the entire Police Board especially the so called SIU needs total change!!