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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Man stressed before taser death: hearing

December 10, 2008
Gwendolyn Richards, Calgary Herald

The stress of trying to find work, in the face of dwindling finances and a looming fight for full custody of his then three-year-old daughter was mounting on Jason Doan in the weeks leading up to his arrest by RCMP.

The 28-year-old had completed an eight-week welding course, but was still struggling to find an employer in August 2006. He was lonely. And his daughter's maternal aunt was threatening to take the little girl to stay on the Tsuu T'ina reserve, where Doan would no longer have access to her.

His older sister Surya Doan watched the impact the stress was having on him while he stayed at her Red Deer home in the last few weeks of July and early August that year.

"He was grappling with all this stuff," she said Tuesday, at a fatality inquiry examining the circumstances of Doan's death. "This young man probably could not take one more thing that day."

But it remains unclear exactly what prompted Doan on Aug. 10, 2006 to act in such a bizarre manner that ultimately led an RCMP officer to deploy a Taser three times in an effort to subdue him.

Following the three shocks, Doan went into cardiac arrest. He died three weeks later in Red Deer Regional Hospital.

Surya told those gathered in the Red Deer courtroom that her brother had no history of mental illness, nor was he on any prescription or non-prescription drugs in the time leading up to the incident.

He had been making great strides ahead in his life, between completing his studies and working toward finding counsel to help him gain custody of his daughter, she said.

"He was really stepping into new avenues of his life," she said.

However, he also had been drinking more--going out all night and sleeping until noon a handful of times--and had several conversations with his sister about wanting to go live in the woods where it was safe, after hearing news reports about terrorism and the war in Iraq.

Surya doesn't know where her brother stayed the night before the incident and only through the inquiry have two-year-old questions begun to be answered.

The process has been emotional.

Surya fought to contain her tears while testifying Tuesday afternoon as she talked about conversations with the RCMP following the Tasering and how she kept questioning why her little brother was jolted three times.

During the morning's testimony, Anthony Makowski -- a civilian who became involved in the arrest after reporting Doan's strange behaviour in his neighbourhood to police--said even after the first two Taser deployments, Doan was still resisting arrest and could not be subdued.

Makowski had been out doing yard-work when he first heard Doan screaming and yelling as he walked down the residential street.

He could see Doan was carrying a rock larger than a softball and the broken handle of a pitchfork as he made his way toward Makowski's house.

Makowski testified Doan was"freaking out" and threatening to kill anyone who got in his way.

Doan dented Makowski's truck and threw the rock through his sister's car window before heading into the alley.

Makowski said he called 911, then got into his truck and drove parallel to the alley with both windows open so he could track Doan.

He said he feared someone, particularly children in the area, could get hurt.

A police cruiser pulled up behind him and the officer went into the alley, Makowski said.

The officer later reappeared further down the street, holding his head.

"He goes, 'Try and stop that guy,'" Makowski said.

So when Doan came out from behind some houses, Makowski pulled his truck in front of him and "jumped on"Doan after the officer did.

Makowski said it didn't' appear the officer had any control.

"It was flipping and flopping and fighting and wrassling," he said.

As Makowski sat on Doan's upper legs and the officer fought to get him cuffed, a female RCMP officer came over and was struck by Doan, Makowski told the inquiry.

More officers arrived and one finally said to "settle down or I'll Taser you," Makowski said.

When Doan failed to relax after the first hit, the officer deployed a second, then a third.

Then Doan went calm.

When officers flipped him over onto his front seconds later, he was already going blue.

An emergency physician who gave medical care to Doan when he was brought to the hospital after the incident said paramedics told him Doan had no heartbeat and no blood pressure when they arrived.

They were able to get back a heartbeat, but the doctor said Doan never showed any neurological response.

Dr. Lyle Thomas also testified Doan had bruising to the inner crook of his arm, and his lower back, along with two small wounds in the same area, potentially from where the Taser was applied.

Doan died on Aug. 30 after his heart stopped.

Dr. Regina Donnelly testified the swelling on Doan's brain, low blood pressure and pneumonia were among the factors that contributed to his heart stopping.

Since his death, Doan's daughter has moved in with Surya, who now has custody.

Surya said not a day goes by when the little girl doesn't ask about her dad.

"Telling the truth is not a possibility," Surya said.

The family has filed a wrongful-death suit against a number of individuals and organizations, including Makowski.

Their claim has not been proven in court.

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