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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Spring inquest for Taser death

November 25, 2008
Mike Chouinard, The Times

It's been just over a year since Robert Thurston Knipstrom, 36, died following an altercation with Chilliwack RCMP and still questions remain about what happened on the afternoon of Nov. 19.

When these questions will be answered is not certain, but it will not likely happen in the near future. The Times confirmed with the B.C. Coroners Service in the spring that there will be an official inquest into Knipstrom's death. On Monday, the coroners office again said there will be an inquest but could give no timetable because of factors such as the time needed to arrange for all parties to appear at the inquest, as well as a list of other cases also proceeding to inquest.

Knipstrom died shortly after midnight on Nov. 24 in Surrey Memorial Hospital after he had been on life support for several days. Reports at the time indicated police used pepper spray, a baton and a Taser to try to subdue Knipstrom after he apparently became agitated while at an Airport Road business on Nov. 19.

The federal Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) against the RCMP is also overseeing an investigation into the incident. Chair Paul E. Kennedy announced a chair-initiated public complaint, although the RCMP, itself, will conduct an investigation into the incident.

"They do the investigation; we monitor it," CPC spokesperson Nelson Kalil told the Times.

The CPC also applied a pilot observer program from the outset of the case, which determined there should not be any issues of impartiality with the RCMP conducting the investigation. The RCMP will produce a report, which the the CPC will review in order to make its own recommendations. They will determine if the police complied with all policies, procedures, guidelines and requirements for the arrest and treatment of people taken into custody, as well as their investigation.

Kalil said it will likely be some time before the commission weighs in on the case, at least waiting until the coroners' process is complete. "We want to make sure we hear everything," he said. "It helps us in terms of developing our report."

In the meantime, Knipstrom's friends have continued to post messages and stories about him on a web page they set up on the social networking site Facebook, which now has 213 members.

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