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Friday, October 31, 2008

Officials defend Tasering

October 31, 2008
By JIM MACDONALD The Canadian Press

EDMONTON — Alberta’s premier and solicitor general are downplaying the role a stun gun may have played in the death of an Edmonton man who was zapped twice by police.

Trevor Grimolfson died after he was confronted by police armed with Tasers as he ran amok in an Edmonton pawn shop Wednesday.

His death is being investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an independent organization that reviews fatalities involving police forces in Alberta. But Grimolfson’s family is already questioning the use of a stun gun on him.

Solicitor General Fred Lindsay said Thursday there’s no proof Tasers have caused any deaths. He said there’s plenty of evidence, however, to suggest that they have prevented people from being killed.

"What I will say is the Taser is an effective tool and it’s an alternate tool to lethal force," said Lindsay. "In over 2,000 cases where it’s been used in this country, it’s actually saved people’s lives."

More than 20 people have died in Canada after being stunned by Tasers.

The U.S. company that makes the devices points out they have never been directly blamed for a death. Steve Tuttle, the vice-president of communications for Taser International, said the family’s assertion that the device may have played apart in Grimolfson’s death isn’t based on the facts. "Until all the facts surrounding this tragic incident are known, it’s extremely inappropriate to jump to conclusions on the cause of death," he said from the company’s offices in Scottsdale, Ariz.

There is already a long list of independent research that has verified the safety of the devices, Tuttle said. More than 130 studies have been done on Taser technology and 80 per cent of them have been independent, Tuttle said. "We have yet to see a human study come back and give us an indication that these devices are unsafe," Tuttle said.

Lindsay said a condition known as excited delirium may be responsible for the deaths rather than the Taser itself. "How many of those deaths have been confirmed to be because of the use of the Taser? I haven’t seen a lot of evidence come forward yet that confirms at the end of the investigation that it was caused by the voltage that was put into the person’s body by the Taser."

Premier Ed Stelmach noted that Lindsay himself was jolted with a Taser during a demonstration earlier this year. "This minister is standing. He got Tasered and he’s alive."

Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, a deputy editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal who has been critical of the lack of studies on conducted energy weapons, said there’s a great need to know more about the potential health effects of the devices.

Stanbrook, who is an associate professor at the University of Toronto, said it’s in the public’s interest to know whether they are potentially harmful.

"We need independent, public analysis of a robust, broad data set of all the times this has been used, by experts who are capable of doing it, so we can get an answer as to whether this device causes harm," he said.

He said such research may answer whether the devices may be contributing to in-custody deaths, especially for people who are highly agitated — either due to mental-health issues or drugs and alcohol.

"The truth is right now, we simply don’t know. We’ve got a lot of concerns, but no answers," Stanbrook said.

Stanbrook dismissed excited delirium as an explanation for such deaths, saying there’s no agreement in the medical community about whether it’s a real syndrome.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

OACP Report on Conducted Energy Weapons

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."

Alberta premier defends Tasers, points out solicitor general survived a jolt

October 30, 2008
The Canadian Press

EDMONTON — Alberta's premier and solicitor general are downplaying the role a stun gun may have played in the death of an Edmonton man who was zapped twice by police.

Trevor Grimolfson died after he was confronted by police armed with Tasers as he ran amok in an Edmonton pawn shop Wednesday. His death is being investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an independent organization that reviews fatalities involving police forces in Alberta. But Grimolfson's family is already questioning the use of a stun gun on him.

Solicitor General Fred Lindsay said Thursday there's no proof Tasers have caused any deaths. He said there's plenty of evidence, however, to suggest that they have prevented people from being killed. "What I will say is the Taser is an effective tool and it's an alternate tool to lethal force," said Lindsay. "In over 2,000 (incidents) where it's been used in this country, it's actually saved people's lives."

More than 20 people have died in Canada after being stunned by Tasers. The U.S. company that makes the devices points out they have never been directly blamed for a death.

Lindsay said a condition know as excited delirium may be responsible for the deaths rather than the Taser itself. "How many of those deaths have been confirmed to be because of the use of the Taser? I haven't seen a lot of evidence come forward yet that confirms at the end of the investigation that it was caused by the voltage that was put into the person's body by the Taser."

Premier Ed Stelmach noted that Lindsay himself was jolted with a Taser during a demonstration earlier this year. "This minister is standing. He got Tasered and he's alive." Stelmach said the fact that someone has died must be balanced with "the safety of our police officers in these situations."

Witnesses have said Grimolfson entered a pawn shop Wednesday in a gritty section of Edmonton's west end and began assaulting someone inside.

Clifton Purvis, executive director of the serious incident response team, said a Taser was deployed at the scene on two occasions and had no effect. He said the man was eventually wrestled to the ground and handcuffed. But he lost consciousness and was transported to hospital where he was declared dead, said Purvis.

Grimolfson is originally from Selkirk, Man., and photos and tributes to him have been posted on a social networking website. "In memory of Trevor Grimolfson. An amazing man whose life was cut short thanks to the Edmonton Police," says the site.

Lindsay said there's still no proof the deployment of a Taser was linked in any way to Grimolfson's death. "Until the investigation is completed we're not even sure the Taser was deployed properly where the voltage actually went into the person."

Several reviews on the use of stun guns are underway across the country. There is also a public inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant who died shortly after he was Tasered by RCMP officers at Vancouver's airport last year. A report commissioned by the RCMP said national standards, more resources and better co-ordination are needed to ensure officers are properly trained to use the devices.

Lindsay said Alberta has a "very comprehensive" policy for using Tasers and will continue to allow them to be used by police until there's evidence or studies that "prove otherwise."

Police must reach out to mentally ill

October 30, 2008
ANDRE PICARD, Globe and Mail

Last Tuesday, just after midnight, a client walked into Pro Gym, a 24-hour fitness club in Montreal's east end.

The 33-year-old man was acting strangely, muttering to himself, swearing out loud, and when he got on the treadmill to run he was wearing a bulletproof vest and sporting his police service revolver.

The club's manager called police - the facility is located across the street from station 23 - and they intervened.

The constable on the treadmill, obviously in the midst of a psychotic episode, reacted with a combination of anger and paranoia. He ran to a nearby room and locked himself in.

He then proceeded to trash the place: He threw weights at a mirror and the walls, destroyed the computers, and smashed everything he could get his hands on.

When police arrived, it was not with guns drawn. They talked to the distressed man - who has a history of severe depression - and they waited, and waited and waited. They even took the time to call his father to come in and help.

The standoff with the armed man lasted more than four hours. During that time, the constable fired his service revolver eight times into the ceiling and walls. Still they waited.

Finally, the man opened the door of the room where he had barricaded himself, still brandishing a weapon. He was shot with rubber bullets that knocked him over but didn't hurt him because he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

The officer was then disarmed, subdued and transported to hospital, where he received psychiatric care.

Contrast this with the high-profile case of Robert Dziekanski, who died after an encounter with the Mounties at Vancouver International Airport just over a year ago.

The 40-year-old Polish immigrant was ranting and raving, and turned over a table. He was confronted immediately by RCMP officers.

Police knew that Mr. Dziekanski was not armed - he had been through airport security and had waited for hours in a lounge because of an immigration snafu before "acting up."

With limited knowledge of English, and visibly distraught, he almost certainly did not understand what was being said to him. Mr. Dziekanski posed no danger and was, at worst, a nuisance. Yet he was confronted by four police officers, zapped with a taser and died.

A long-delayed public inquiry into his death - headed by retired B.C. Court of Appeal judge Thomas Braidwood - is now slated to begin in January. While it will focus on the appropriate use of tasers, the inquiry should examine something else: The appropriate response to people with mental illness.

Screaming, pacing, ranting, muttering, damaging property and uttering threats are antisocial acts that police witness every day. One study found that at least one in four police calls involved a person with mental illness. These are acts not only of the indigents and drug abusers who are fixtures of our urban landscape, but of working people and professionals such as police officers and electricians who suffer from mental-health crises.

One of the biggest challenges of policing - and public health - is how to respond to such acts by people who are frightened, irrational and pose a greater danger to themselves than to others.

But the contrast between the two incidents - one in a Montreal gym and another in the Vancouver airport - one year apart is striking. We need to ask ourselves why the police response was so markedly different and what we can learn from the outcomes.

The most obvious answer is that, in the first example, the person suffering from mental illness was a police officer.

The responding officers saw him as a colleague, perhaps a friend, who was in trouble. They saw him as a human being who was sick, not as a criminal. As a result, Montreal police acted admirably. They practised a method known as de-escalation - a fancy word meaning "waiting for a person to calm down."

Mr. Dziekanski, on the other hand, was an anonymous figure, another guy ranting and raving in public. He was in an airport - an institution that symbolizes society in a hurry, and a place where obsession with law and order prevails.

Sure people with untreated mental illness can be bothersome, disruptive and discomforting. But they are not criminals; they are sick.

Surely our response to their pain can be a little more sophisticated than bashing down doors, handcuffing and arresting them or, as happens too often, shooting them with rubber bullets, jolts of electricity from a taser or real bullets.

The weapons that need to be used are ones that police don't draw on often enough: patience and empathy.

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Man dies after Edmonton police use taser twice

October 29, 2008
Canwest News Service

EDMONTON - A man died Wednesday after police stunned him twice with a Taser outside a pawnshop in Edmonton - the latest person to die after being hit with a conductive energy weapon in Canada.

The city police force said officers responded to a mischief call just after 11 a.m. local time and found a man threatening people and smashing windows at Dan's Pawnshop.

Officers deployed a Taser twice on the man, to no effect, said police spokesman Jeff Wuite.

He said the man continued to resist arrest, but police officers eventually forced him to the ground and handcuffed him. He then lost consciousness, Wuite said.

The man was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has been called in to investigate. The team investigates deaths that may have resulted from the actions of police officers.

Officials said it was too early yet to tell whether the man's death was the result of being hit with a Taser.

At least 23 other people have died in Canada after being hit with a Taser by police in recent years.

The most high-profile death was that of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.

The 40-year-old died after being shocked with a Taser at the Vancouver airport in October 2007.

The incident was videotaped by a witness. That tape, showing RCMP officers using a Taser on an agitated man who spoke no English and then pinning him to the ground, drew outrage from around the world.

An inquiry into the death was delayed this week pending the Crown's decision on whether charges are warranted against the RCMP officers involved.

While research has found no conclusive link between Taser shocks and deaths, there have been indications that body size, existing medical conditions, ingestion of drugs and acute stress can increase the risk of harm to a person struck with a Taser.

A report by the Mounties public complaints commission chairman Paul Kennedy urged the RCMP to rein in their use of Tasers. He said it appeared Tasers were being deployed by RCMP more often and much earlier in encounters with suspects than originally intended when they were adopted.

Taser-cop charged

October 29, 2008
CMG News

An RCMP officer from British Columbia who was involved in a fatal taser incident at Vancouver Airport a year ago has been charged in the death of a motorcycle rider on the weekend.

The officer's name was not released. On Saturday night, he was off duty and driving a Jeep when, according to reports, a collision occurred with a motorcycle ridden by Orion Hutchinson, 21, in Delta, a city near Vancouver.

The motorcyclist died at the scene. The officer was charged with impaired driving causing death and with exceeding the .08 blood-alcohol limit.

The RCMP officer had been moved into the Olympic Integrated Security Unit, which is preparing for the Vancouver Olympics. He was one of four RCMP officers who were involved in the taser death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski last October at Vancouver International Airport. An inquiry into that incident has just been delayed one more time.

EDITORIAL: Let's get on with unravelling Dziekanski's death

October 29, 2008
The Province

Millions of people worldwide have seen the video of Robert Dziekanski getting Tasered to death by RCMP at YVR on Oct. 17, 2007.

Despite what appeared to be obvious excessive force causing death, the RCMP cautioned Canadians from jumping to conclusions based on one piece of damning evidence.

The following report appeared in The Province on Nov. 18, 2007: --

As mourners shared their grief publicly over the death of Taser victim Robert Dziekanski yesterday, the head of the RCMP issued a lengthy statement defending Canada's national police force.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said he was speaking out to counter what he called "a perception that the RCMP has been silent since the airing of the disturbing video images earlier this week," a perception that has left him "concerned that growing misperceptions are eroding the public's confidence in the RCMP." Elliott said the force wanted to "extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to his family." He acknowledged that "the video images recently made public are disturbing for anyone who sees them," but vigorously defended the RCMP's use of Tasers.

He cautioned the public not to judge by what they saw on the video footage.

"This serious event deserves a comprehensive and complete examination," Elliot said, adding that the officers involved have been assigned to other duties.


Well said, and certainly fair comment given all that was then not known about the incident.

But now, with the second postponement of a public inquiry into this tragic death, Canadians are more than ready to start conclusion-jumping again.

Most people know Dziekanski's story. Following a lengthy flight from Europe, the 40-year-old new immigrant, who spoke no English, was stranded for 10 hours in a secluded area of a YVR terminal.

Four RCMP officers responded to a report of an agitated man. After they arrived on the scene, a brief and heated conversation ensued ending with Dziekanski being Tasered more than once. Shortly afterwards he died.

The province ordered an inquiry into the death and the Braidwood Commission was struck.

Conducted by retired B.C. justice Thomas Braidwood, the inquiry's mandate was to first examine the use of Tasers by police forces in the province, then reconvene on Oct. 20 to specifically examine the events that led to Dziekanski's death.

The October date was postponed to Nov. 20, and then, on Monday, further postponed to Jan. 15, 2009.

The inquiry can't begin until the Crown counsel decides on whether or not to charge all or any of the four RCMP officers involved.

Crown counsel says it is waiting for the complete RCMP report on the incident before making a decision on any charges.

Meanwhile, the RCMP are pointing a finger at a doctor who apparently needs more than a year to issue a medical report.

"The RCMP fully intends to co-operate with the Braidwood Commission," said Mounties spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields. "But we have received advice from Crown counsel that we need to wait until a decision on criminal charges has been made before handing over the file. A criminal trial would be jeopardized if charges were laid. Only one document has not been received from IHIT (Integrated Homicide Investigation Team). It is a doctor's report which will be submitted to Crown counsel as soon as it is submitted. IHIT concluded its investigation many months ago." Art Vertlieb, who is acting for the Braidwood Commission, had this to say about this ongoing black eye for justice: "This is an important case for many people. Dziekanski's family, the airport and the Polish government are all interested. We very much want to get on with this. We want the RCMP to get on with it. We've been very patient. The public deserves to have answers." How important is that line:"The public deserves to have answers." Not excuses. Answers.

Whatever it takes and whoever has to get involved, the inquiry must begin as soon as is legally possible. At every turn, it seems the handling of this incident has been mismanaged.

Canadians deserve to be screaming mad that this inquiry hasn't started. Let's get on with it.

Taser case fallout claims more victims

October 29, 2008
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

The fallout from the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport has claimed two other victims, a motorcyclist who was killed in Delta on Saturday night and the off-duty RCMP officer whose vehicle collided with him.

Orion Hutchinson, of Tsawwassen, was riding his bike westbound along Sixth Avenue on Saturday night when he was struck at the Gilchrist intersection by an eastbound Jeep. The 21-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.

The officer faces charges for blowing over .08 in a breathalyzer test and impaired driving causing death.

He was released on a promise to appear Jan. 15.

On Tuesday, however, the RCMP revealed the Mountie was also involved in the Oct. 14, 2007 fracas at the airport in which the 40-year-old Polish immigrant was Tasered at least twice and died being subdued by the officers.

Since Dziekanski's death, this Mountie became a member of an integrated team involved in organizing security for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

He now is suspended with pay.

Unlike you or I in a similar situation, though, this alleged drunken killer isn't having his name splashed all over the papers.

The Mounties and Delta Police, who are investigating the weekend fatality, claim the cop hasn't actually been "charged" yet, so they're protecting his privacy until he appears in court.

What a thoughtful thing to do.

I can't believe these two police agencies have the audacity to pull a stunt like this, especially the RCMP. Doesn't the force realize the country has lost faith in it and that transparency, not secrecy is needed to rebuild the trust we once had in this national institution?

Most people I talk to remain absolutely livid about what happened to Dziekanski, and they're astounded the RCMP seems to be thumbing their nose at the public's concerns.

The force has been dithering for more than a year over providing Crown counsel with enough relevant information to make a decision about whether or not to charge the four Mounties involved in Dziekanski's death. As a result, his family has been denied closure and the public denied important answers to pressing questions about what happened at YVR and why.

At the same time, the four officers involved have had a horrible cloud over their heads and their careers, and the force has done them no favour by procrastinating.

And it doesn't take a shrink to realize that maybe the stress of being involved in a death that became a global controversy and having a criminal charge hanging over you for a year -- a veritable sword of Damocles -- well, it might drive you to drink or to make other self-destructive judgments.

As in the Dziekanski incident, the officer involved in Saturday night's fatal accident must be given the benefit of being considered innocent.

But what does it look like to you?

The optics never have been good in this case and now they are hellish.

Those who have failed to act expeditiously on the investigation and charge decision in the Dziekanski incident should today take a good look in the mirror.

They not only have the frustration and loss of Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, on their hands, but there's a strong suggestion their foot-dragging may have contributed to the unravelling of a colleague's life, and thus to Saturday night's crash.

RCMP Sgt. Tim Shields, the latest spin doctor to front for the force, told reporters: "This is the most unimaginable heartbreak ever and we are sick about it."

He and his colleagues should be.

Unfortunately that won't bring back Dziekanski or Hutchinson, or ease the pain this police officer and these families must be feeling today.

It's time to make a decision on whether charges are going to be laid over Dziekanski's death, to address the concerns of the public and to start healing this suppurating sore.

Our failure to do so augurs only more heartache and loss.

RCMP officer faces impaired driving charge in fatal B.C. crash

October 28, 2008
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER — One of the four officers involved in the fatal confrontation with Robert Dziekanski is now facing charges of impaired driving after a 21-year-old man was killed in a collision over the weekend.

RCMP spokesman Sergeant Tim Shields confirmed an off-duty member of the force was involved in the collision that resulted in the death of motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson.

The officer, who serves on the Olympic Integrated Security Unit, has been released on a promise to appear for impaired driving causing death and exceeding the legal limit.

He is was one of the four Mounties involved in last year's fatal confrontation with Robert Dziekanski, who died after being hit by a taser at the Vancouver airport.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Report found no bias, SIU boss says

October 28, 2008
Robyn Doolittle, Toronto Star

The newly minted boss of the province's Special Investigations Unit says after examining a recent report into the agency, he does not believe the SIU is biased towards police.

Ian Scott points to a section of the Ontario Ombudsman's probe of the SIU.

"Quote: 'During our investigation, we were unable to find any objective evidence that any individual case had been tainted by improper motives,' " he said.

"The way I read it is that (Ombudsman André Marin is) saying when you really drill down and look at the evidence, look at the briefs, there's nothing that he can point to that says there's any pro-police bias."

But, contacted last night, Marin says Scott is reading it wrong. The purpose of the probe was not to reinvestigate closed cases, he said.

"As such, we were not looking for evidence of improper motives or police bias in the ultimate decision to charge or not charge the police. Nor did we find any," said Marin.

"What we did find, however, were investigations conducted with a pro-police bias. The report is abundant with examples. ... The SIU is not the impartial investigator the law mandates it to be, but in a sense, bleeds blue with pro-police bias. That needs to be fixed by the new director."

Among other charges, Marin accused the agency of investigating its cases through "blue-coloured glasses," allowing police to control the probe, and rarely interviewing officers within the mandated 24 hours following an incident.

Since its release, at least one family has contacted Scott, requesting he take a second look at a ruling. Others are planning to do the same in the coming weeks.

Rob Maltar, whose brother James was shot in police custody three years ago, spoke with Scott last week. After an 11-month probe, the SIU found James had shot himself with an officer's gun. Maltar and his family have never believed it.

Scott told him he'd consider reopening any closed case if new "material" evidence was uncovered.

Two weeks ago, the former Crown attorney began his five-year term as director of the SIU, the civilian agency tasked with investigating all cases of serious injury, death, or sexual assault involving police in Ontario.

"I doubt very much when I'm here we're going to see any cold cases (but) if it's new material evidence, then yes," Scott said in an interview with the Star yesterday at SIU headquarters in Mississauga.

For the Maltars, time is running out. The inquest into his brother's death is scheduled for January. Once it begins, there's no chance the case will be re-examined.

"I personally think it's a cowardice way to handle a situation. Telling the family members that they have to come up with evidence for them to reopen the case, meanwhile, they have all the evidence," said Maltar.

Yesterday, sitting in a board room crowded by the SIU's past – dozens of case boxes marked with victims' names – Scott noted that the focus of the Ombudsman's report was to look forward, not backward.

None of Marin's 46 recommendations suggest the SIU should reopen cases, Scott pointed out.

But Marin did highlight problems with response times and delays interviewing witness officers.

"Those are both areas of concern for me," Scott said.

Both will be looked at by the SIU's ombudsman's report response team, an initiative created by outgoing director James Cornish.

Over the next six months, the team will work to address each of the ombudsman's recommendations and prepare a report for Marin regarding progress or an explanation of why changes haven't occurred.

"I think the civilian oversight of policing is an important function of a democratic society," he said. "And what I'm hoping to do here is to foster confidence in civilian oversight of policing and I'm hoping to do that by independent investigators, thorough investigations and impartial investigations."

Coroner: Cocaine, taser contributed to man's death

October 28, 2008
Vic Ryckaert, Indystar.com

The Marion County coroner's office said Monday that cocaine was in the system of a suspect who died after a metropolitan police officer used a Taser to subdue him in March.

Henry O. Bryant, 35, 3000 block of Cluster Pine Drive, died after officers used a Taser and chemical spray while they arrested him on a charge of public intoxication March 29 at O'Charley's restaurant, 5130 W. 38th St.

The coroner's office ruled that Bryant suffered a "sudden cardiac death" during the struggle with police, Chief Deputy Coroner Alfie Ballew said. Cocaine in Bryant's system and the electric shocks delivered by the Taser were ruled contributing factors, Ballew said.

The manner of death was determined to be homicide, Ballew said. Although homicide refers to a person killing another, not all homicides are determined to be criminal.

Officer Charles Martin, a 26-year veteran, was identified in reports as having used a department-issued Taser on Bryant. Another officer used chemical spray, the report said.

An internal investigation of the incident cleared the officers at the scene of any wrongdoing, Sgt. Paul Thompson said.

Jason R. Reese, an attorney for Bryant's family, said Bryant was not resisting arrest when the officers arrested him. The family intends to sue the department in federal court, Bryant said, but no suit had been filed by Monday.

The Taser incapacitates suspects by delivering up to 50,000 volts of low-amperage electricity through a direct stun or through two barbs shot into the body from up to 21 feet away.

According to Amnesty International, there were 307 Taser-related deaths from 2001 to Dec. 3, 2007, in the United States. The organization has argued that Tasers are being used as tools of routine force rather than as weapons of last resort.

A 2005 study by The Indianapolis Star found that Indianapolis police use of Tasers quadrupled from 2004 to 2005.

Tasered man's mother threatens legal action after delay in inquiry

October 28, 2008
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER — Robert Dziekanski's mother, frustrated at delays in an inquest into the death of her son after he was tasered last year, is considering legal action against the Mounties who used the device and others linked to the matter, her lawyer says.

Walter Kosteckyj, speaking for Zofia Cisowski, raised the possibility yesterday after news that the Braidwood inquiry is being delayed for the second time.

"If this thing is delayed much further, there are civil remedies available," he said, indicating the officers involved, Vancouver airport and other "various entities" might be targeted.

"[Ms. Cisowski] hopes the inquiry will go ahead, but if it's clear it won't proceed, we'll contemplate other options," he said.

The probe into Mr. Dziekanski's death at Vancouver International Airport last October was scheduled to resume this month, but was delayed until Nov. 12. Now it is scheduled to resume Jan. 19 and sit for at least six weeks.

Commission counsel Art Vertleib says the Crown is awaiting additional information from the RCMP before deciding whether to charge the officers involved in the fatal confrontation with Mr. Dziekanski, who became agitated after waiting for several hours at the international arrivals area of the airport. He could not speak English. The question of charges, he said, is delaying the inquiry.

Retired B.C. appeal court judge Thomas Braidwood was appointed in February by B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal to conduct a two-phase inquiry on taser use. As well as looking into the death of Mr. Dziekanski, Mr. Braidwood first examined the use of tasers by police, but the report on that inquiry is still being written.

A decision on whether police will be charged in the case was expected in early October, but has been delayed, according to a commission statement.

Mr. Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, was supposed to meet his mother, a Kamloops resident, at the airport, after taking his first-ever airplane trip to Canada to begin a new life in this country.

The confrontation with police was caught by a bystander's video-recording device, and widely broadcast around the world, raising questions about police use of tasers.

"We respect the concerns of the Crown, but we just hope the RCMP and the Crown can get together and get this done," Mr. Vertleib said in an interview yesterday, noting he is "frustrated" about the situation.

The commission has been unable to get access to RCMP files, preventing them from determining which witnesses have been interviewed and whether they would be useful to the process, Mr. Vertleib said.

RCMP spokesman Sergeant Tim Shields said the force is "fully co-operating" with the inquiry, and submitted a full investigative report on the case months ago.

"I am led to believe they are awaiting one doctor's report that has not been received," he said.

He said the RCMP are reluctant to release additional material to the commission before a decision is made on charges. The concern is that it might become public, compromising the officers' right to a fair trial.

He said the situation has been "extremely difficult" for the officers who dealt with Mr. Dziekanski, and are now awaiting a decision on charges.

Crown spokesman Stan Lowe, in a voicemail message responding to a call for comment, said prosecutors are awaiting a final item and will "make a decision quickly" on charges once it is received.

Mr. Kosteckyj said his client is exasperated.

"She's just basically beside herself. She's really losing faith in the system," he said. "She's come to the conclusion that these delays are being brought about so people will forget about [the case]."

He noted she supports the laying of charges against the officers because she feels it was "unconscionable" for officers to use conducted-energy weapons against her son when he was asking for help.

An RCMP report suggests officers are not receiving special training for using tasers in jailhouse settings despite the fact that one in every 10 people hit with an RCMP stun gun last year was behind bars. The report, dated Aug. 25, recommends that cellblock scenarios be included in RCMP training sessions with the devices.

Judge cuts award in taser death

October 28, 2008
By VIRGINIA HENNESSEY, Monterey County Herald

A federal judge has thrown out a jury's award of $5.2 million in punitive damages in the case of a Salinas man who died after police stunned him with Tasers. The ruling leaves intact only $180,000 in compensatory damages for the family of Robert C. Heston, who died Feb. 20, 2005, a day after he was stunned numerous times by Salinas police officers at his father's home.

Judge James Ware agreed with attorneys for Taser International that the jury could award punitive damages only if it found the company knew of the potentially deadly dangers of its product and intentionally sold it without sufficient warnings.

In a complicated 26-question verdict form, the jury found Taser failed to warn the Salinas Police Department of the weapon's risks, contributing to the officers' decision to stun Heston numerous times. However, the jury said though the company should have known Tasers could cause cardiac arrest, it didn't. The verdict cleared Taser of product liability violations, which could have carried punitive damages.

In his ruling Friday, Ware rejected Taser's motion for a new trial, saying there was sufficient evidence to find the company liable for negligence and compensatory damages.

Each side claimed victory with the ruling, and said it is considering an appeal.

"Taser International is obviously very pleased with Judge Ware's ruling with respect to punitive damages," said Doug Klint, general counsel for Taser. "The jury, in this case, clearly exceeded its ability to award punitive damages, which are not permitted under California law on a finding of negligent failure to warn." Klint said the company will "consider all appropriate legal channels" with relation to the negligence verdict.

John Burton, attorney for Heston's parents, Betty Lou and Robert H. Heston, said the judge's ruling was disappointing, but "not unexpected. Everybody's disappointed to have a jury who wanted to assess $5.2 million (in damages) against Taser and have it taken away on technical reasons that have nothing to do with the case," he said. "The important thing is that (Ware) affirmed the liability that Taser did not give warnings that Tasers kill people," he added. "This is one battle in a much bigger war about the safety of these devices."

Burton is scheduled for trial in federal court in June against Taser and two Seaside police officers in the August 2004 death of Michael Rosa. The Pasadena attorney recently filed another lawsuit against the company on behalf of a Santa Cruz County man who sustained brain injuries when he was stunned by Watsonville police.

Like many who have died after being "tased," Heston was in a violent, methamphetamine-induced state when his father summoned police in February 2005. Initial shocks did not phase the 40-year-old man and police continued to fire.

Attorneys in the case agreed that numerous officers shot Taser prongs into Heston, triggering two dozen 5-second cycles, though defense attorneys argued that some of the prongs missed him.

Burton argued Taser International failed to warn Salinas police that prolonged exposure to "tasing" can cause a change in blood chemistry and induce cardiac arrest.

The jury found the weapon can cause acidosis — a reduced level of alkalinity in the blood — but said Taser was unaware of the danger when it sold the "non-lethal" weapons to Salinas police.

The company has since begun warning police agencies of the risk.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another arrogant response from the RCMP

October 27, 2008
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

RCMP foot-dragging in the investigation into the Tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport a year ago has forced a second postponement of the public inquiry into his death.

The inquiry was supposed to reconvene Oct. 20, but that was delayed a month ago until Nov. 20. At that time, Crown counsel said it would require at least two weeks to review the investigators' report on the incident that triggered international outrage and several probes into the use of the conducted energy weapons.

Turns out, the prosecutors weren't able to meet that deadline because the material received from RCMP investigators was deemed incomplete with a required report on the use of deadly force missing.

The inquiry now has been put off until Jan. 19.

"To fulfil its mandate in the most ideal way, the commission needs the cooperation of the RCMP, including access to the Dziekanski case files," explained Art Vertlieb, commission counsel. "But that's unlikely to happen until a decision is made on charges."

This is another arrogant response from the RCMP, which has behaved badly throughout this tragedy.

The force initially misled the public about what happened, tried to suppress a videotape of the incident shot by a witness and now RCMP investigators have taken more than a year to provide Crown with the material needed to decide whether any or all of the four officers involved should be charged with Dziekanski's death.

"The public has a right to know!" fumed Walter Kosteckyj, lawyer for the family, on Monday. "The delay is ridiculous. It makes us all look foolish. It makes the legal community look foolish."

This tempest exposes also the dysfunctional relationship between the provincial government and the federal police agency. We pay for the Mounties, but they don't report to Victoria, they report to Ottawa.

After Dziekanski's death, Attorney General Wally Oppal admitted even he couldn't get straight answers about what happened at the airport Oct. 14, 2007.

Now his prosecutors can't get the federal police agency to provide in a timely manner the requisite information to make a charge decision. Come on!

Retired B.C. Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood, who is conducting the two-part inquiry, said he was disappointed at the second delay.

I bet.

The Mounties' lackadaisical approach has not only made a mockery of public concern about what happened, their foot-dragging tarnishes this inquiry.

Like all of us, Braidwood is frustrated and agrees that the public deserves answers about what occurred.

But without hearing evidence directly from the officers, and having access to the RCMP's files, it is impossible for him to do his job.

Oppal appointed him in February to conduct two related inquiries.

The first was a "study" commission into the use, safety and effectiveness of Tasers by B.C. police forces other than the RCMP. The second phase was to investigate the circumstances of Dziekanski's death.

After a day-long international flight, Dziekanski, 40, spent 10 hours at YVR apparently lost and unable to find his mother, Zofia Cisowski, who was waiting for him in a separate area of the terminal. After hours of futilely trying to get help, she went home to Kamloops.

Her son became more and more upset until his distressed behaviour caused RCMP to be summoned. Within seconds of their arrival, the Mounties twice Tasered the burly construction worker.

Dziekanski died as the officers subdued him.

"This is just such an unbelievable set of circumstances," Kosteckyj said. "We're talking about 20 or 30 seconds. Why would it take so long for the RCMP to complete their report? It leaves the impression they're delaying in the hope the public will forget."

Maybe they've never heard of the adage that justice delayed is justice denied.

These shenanigans have exposed more than anything how much the RCMP is in need of reform.

As Kosteckyj asked: "What happens in those circumstances when there's no videotape of what happened? What happens in those cases? That's what the public needs to know."

We already know - an outright whitewash.

It's time to end the policing contract with the RCMP and for B.C. to police its own turf. Then we'll be able to get answers when things go terribly wrong.

RCMP report shines light on Taser use

October 27, 2008
Jim Bronskill and Sue Bailey, THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA–A new RCMP report says officers get no training on using Tasers in jails, even though 10 per cent of people hit with a mountie stun gun late last year was behind bars.

The force's first quarterly analysis of Taser use recommends mock cell block drills be included in RCMP instruction sessions.

The report says Mounties used their Tasers 337 times from October through December last year. Thirty-four cases, or just over 10 per cent, involved people in custody, "yet there are currently no cell block scenarios in the RCMP's training material."

Opposition MPs and human-rights groups have previously criticized the RCMP for suppressing details of Taser use, including injuries suffered by people stunned and whether they were experiencing a mental health crisis at the time.

The RCMP had no immediate comment on its quarterly report.

Melisa Leclerc, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, said the minister expects "these recommendations to be implemented in a timely manner."

Hilary Homes, security and human rights campaigner with Amnesty International Canada, said she was concerned by the lack of training, and wondered whether the stun guns were being deployed like a cattle prod. "We would like to see use restricted to situations of imminent threat, recognizing that it is a very powerful device," she said.

An analysis last year by The Canadian Press of hundreds of RCMP Taser incidents between 2002 and 2005 turned up several cases in which Mounties used the device to make uncooperative prisoners comply with demands.

Kim Pate, executive director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, questioned Taser use in jails at all. "Why would we need the use of Tasers for individuals who are already in custody, in detention?" she asked.

The new RCMP figures include the case of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died in October 2007 after being zapped and pinned down at the Vancouver International Airport. His painful final minutes, captured on a passenger's video camera, sparked public outrage and a flurry of inquiries.

There's also Robert Knipstrom of Chilliwack, B.C., who died in hospital last November days after being Tasered, pepper sprayed and hit with a baton.

In addition, says the report, one person suffered fractured ribs and another complained of increased heart rate following Taser zaps, and eight others suffered minor injuries such as facial cuts as a result of falling after a stun gun hit.

Responses to mental health or suicidal subjects accounted for 61 – or almost one in five – instances of Taser use.

The report says that in almost one-quarter of cases studied, members used the Taser in cases in which they reported facing a threat of death or grievous bodily harm.

It recommends policy and training relating to such cases be reviewed, since current training instructs members to use lethal force – a conventional gun – to defuse those threats.

Last December, the Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP said the Taser should be used only when suspects are "combative" or pose a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to an officer, themselves or the public.

Paul Kennedy, head of the commission, said RCMP "usage creep" of the powerful electronic weapons meant Mounties were firing the guns from a distance, or in up-close stun mode, more than they should.

Kennedy's final report, issued in June, reiterated his call for tighter controls on an electronic weapon the Mounties had pulled from their holsters more than 4,000 times since its introduction in 2001.

In response, the RCMP said it would take action "as quickly as possible" to provide clearer direction to officers and further restrict reliance on the Taser.

The new report found that during the three-month period it examined:

– RCMP officers reported alcohol or drug use by people zapped in 85 per cent of cases.

– The Taser effectively stopped or prevented subjects' behaviour in 84 per cent of incidents.

– Cases of causing a disturbance, assaults, domestic disputes, cell block altercations and mental health cases accounted for more than 65 per cent Taser uses.

Inquiry into death of Polish immigrant at Vancouver airport postponed AGAIN

October 27, 2008
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The mother of a Polish immigrant who died after being shocked with an RCMP Taser will have to wait even longer for answers in his death.

The inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death at Vancouver International Airport a year ago was originally to start in October but has twice been delayed, first to Nov. 12 and now until Jan. 19 in Vancouver.

Zofia Cisowski, his mother, said Monday she was shaking when she learned that the inquiry had been put off again.

"I am so disappointed," Cisowski said. "But I am not surprised because they postponed two times already."

Commission counsel Art Vertlieb said the delay is necessary while Crown lawyers consider charges against the RCMP officers involved in the Oct. 14, 2007 incident.

"The commission needs the co-operation of the RCMP, including access to the Dziekanski case files," Vertlieb said in a statement announcing the delay. "But that's unlikely to happen until a decision is made on charges."

B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal agreed the public deserves answers but said he understands why the process is taking as long as it is.

He said laying charges against any of the officers would have serious repercussions.

"I think that given our high standard that we use before we lay charges, we want to ensure that there is a substantial likelihood for conviction before we lay the charges," Oppal said.

Last month, RCMP lawyers advised the commission that they would not be able to participate in the commission's proceedings until the Crown has made a decision on charges.

Crown counsel expected that decision would be made by the second week of October but it has been delayed as the Crown waits for additional information from RCMP investigators.

"As things now stand, the commission cannot get access to the RCMP files," Vertlieb said. "That means we don't know which witnesses RCMP investigators have interviewed and whether they are people who may be able to help us with our work."

Without that information, Vertlieb said, it would be difficult for the inquiry to provide Dziekanski's family and the public with a complete record of his death.

Stan Lowe, spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch, said the Crown is still waiting for some key documents, particularly expert reports, to be completed.

"We're working towards getting all the material that we require to complete our charge assessment so that we can confidently say that we have reviewed all the available evidence when we come to a decision," Lowe said.

Thomas Braidwood, head of the inquiry commission and a retired B.C. Appeal Court justice, said he was disappointed that the hearing would again be postponed, adding that the public deserves to know what happened.

Braidwood was appointed by Oppal to head the two commissions of inquiry in February.

The first phase of the inquiry examined the use, safety, and effectiveness of conducted energy weapons in B.C. by police forces other than the RCMP. The report on the first commission phase is currently being written.

The second phase will focus specifically on Dziekanski's death.

The inquiry commissioner can compel testimony and make a finding of misconduct in the case.

Dziekanski wandered for hours in the international arrivals area of the Vancouver airport after his arrival from Poland. Police were eventually summoned after an agitated Dziekanski threw an airport computer monitor to the ground.

He died on the floor of the airport after being hit with at least two jolts from a police Taser.

The B.C. public inquiry is one of a dozen investigations launched after the death, including a review by the Ontario Provincial Police, the B.C. Coroner's office, the RCMP Public Complaints Commission and a House of Commons committee inquiry.

Punitive damages thrown out in Salinas taser case

October 27, 2008
The Californian

TASER International Inc. will not be responsible for punitive damages in the case of the family of a Salinas man killed after police struck him multiple times with Taser stun guns in February 2005.

TASER International Inc. has announced that on Friday, Judge James Ware of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted TASER's renewed motion for judgment with respect to the award of punitive damages.

On June 6, a jury had found TASER International 15 percent responsible for the death of Robert C. Heston during an arrest on Feb. 19, 2005. Five Salinas police officers discharged five TASER M26 ECDs at Heston to subdue him, deploying six cartridges.

The jury also found Heston's own actions, including toxic methamphetamine ingestion, were 85 percent responsible for his death.

Judge Ware on Friday denied TASER's alternative motion for a new trial in the case Betty Lou Heston, et al. v. City of Salinas, TASER International, Inc. (TASER), et al. In granting the renewed motion for judgment, Ware threw out all punitive damages awarded in the case.

Letter to the Editor: taser committee reviewing research - tasers have saved lives and prevented injuries to officers

October 27, 2008
Owen Sound Sun Times


On Sept. 25, your newspaper reported on a committee of members of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police that I was chairing for the purposes of reviewing the use of Conducted Energy Devices (C. E. D.), more commonly referred to as Tasers.

Since that time, it would appear that some of your readers are under the impression that I and my colleagues are actually going to be conducting the research. This is simply not the case and I would be the first to admit that I am not qualified to conduct such extensive research, nor would any results that I could come up with be perceived as independent.

What I and other members of the committee are doing is reviewing the findings from research papers already written and, in many cases, peer reviewed. These include reports published in the Journal of Forensic Science, Journal of the American Medical Association, Academic Emergency Medicine, Canadian Medical Association, American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International, to name a few.

In fact, there are over 91 scientific articles, six separate study reports from Canada and the United States, 21 police service directives, along with reports from France, the United Kingdom and other non-government organizations. There are also 15 other reports from trade magazines and the research papers that Taser International has undertaken.

Clearly, there is a wealth of information on the topic that has already been produced and there is more in various positions of release or review.

The comments that I made to your reporter were merely quoting the research that has been done to date.

There has not been a single fatality where the use of a C. E. D. has been linked to the death. That is a fact.

The results of 10 of the 25 ongoing inquests into the fatalities where a C. E. D. was deployed have all shown that the cause of death was not as a result of the use of the C. E. D. That is a fact.

In two of the inquests conducted, the jurors, who had all of the scientific evidence established to date, made recommendations that a C. E. D. be issued to all front line police officers. Again, this is a fact.

It is also a fact that C. E. D.'s have saved lives and prevented service injuries to members of the public and police officers alike.

The review that we are conducting is to ensure that the facts get out to the public. Our review is being concentrated in the area of deployment, training, policy, records/auditing accountability and reporting. Our goal is to try and establish some acceptable standards on a national basis.

I trust that this has clarified the work of our committee and the independent nature of the research that is being relied upon to form conclusions, so that a fact-based position paper can be prepared on a go-forward basis.

T. J. Kaye Owen Sound Chief of Police
Vice President, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Report: taser one of 3 factors in man's death

October 23, 2008
By Janice Morse, Cincinnati.com

A ruling has been issued in the case of an intoxicated man who died days after Oxford police used a Taser to subdue him. In a report released today, Hamilton County Coroner O'dell Owens' office said the manner of death for Kevin Piskura, 24, was "undetermined," meaning investigators have not classified his April 24 death as homicide, suicide, accidental or natural.

However, the report lists three factors that contributed to Piskura's death: a heart rhythm problem that deprived his brain of oxygen; acute alcohol intoxication and recent physical exertion; and "recent history of application of conductive electrical device," apparently referring to the Taser.

Piskura, a resident of Chicago and a Miami University graduate, was visiting Oxford. After he was Tased, Piskura was taken to McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital in Oxford, and then to University Hospital in Cincinnati, where he died.

It's unclear from the report whether any of the factors played a bigger role than the others. Owens could not immediately be reached to answer questions.

The Enquirer previously reported that Piskura's blood-alcohol level was 0.319, a near-fatal level, when a police officer zapped him with a Taser during a struggle outside an Oxford bar on April 19.

Officials said Piskura was fighting with bouncers and police at the time. A probe by the Butler County Sheriff's Office concluded earlier this year that Oxford Police Officer Geoff Robinson did not use excessive force or violate police procedures when he used the Taser on Piskura.

In a document the Enquirer obtained today, Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper concluded that any question as to whether Officer Robinson would face criminal charges was moot because the officer's actions complied with department policy and were reasonable.

Piper's report, dated Oct. 7, also recounts previously unreported details about the incident. The report was written after his staff reviewed surveillance videos, the video produced by the Taser itself, witness statements and other records.

Around 2 a.m., Brick Street Bar bouncers were escorting Piskura out of the bar. When Piskura's friend, Steven Smith, attempted to intervene, bouncers escorted him outside, too. Smith and the Brick Street staff began fighting.

Patrolman Robinson "happened upon the situation while on routine bicycle patrol...he immediately dismounted and attempted to intervene to quell the disturbance." Robinson said he yelled to get the group to stop fighting. But Piskura "entered the fray, disregarding Robinson's presence and verbal commands. Robinson then increased his use of force by trying to physically push Piskura away from the others. At that moment, Patrolman Robinson faced the dilemma of single-handledly responding to what was now two groups of men fighting. Patrolman Robinson stepped back and warned the group to stop fighting or the Taser would be deployed."

Brick Street staff and Smith ceased fighting. But "the heavily intoxicated Piskura continued to fight with two Brick Street employees."

Smith had told investigators that Piskura was "out of his mind, blackout drunk," and later tests on Piskura at McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital showed Piskura's blood-alcohol level was more than quadruple Ohio's legal limit for driving.

In accordance with Oxford police procedure, Robinson yelled: "Taser! Taser! Taser!" Then he deployed the Taser on Piskura's torso.

"The few witnesses that contradict Patrolman Robinson's statement do so in ways that are not credible, given the evidence," the report states. "For example, some witnesses reported either seeing firsthand or hearing secondhand that Kevin Piskura had been Tased anywhere from three times to as many as six times. This is demonstrably false, as clearly illustrated by the video from the Taser's on-board camera and the firings report from the manufacturer, Taser International. Both pieces of evidence indicate a single activation of hte Taser, for approximately 11 seconds."

The Taser's camera showed Piskura "on the ground, rolling over several times during deployment -- a possible sign of the Taser's less-than-full effect."

"Another witness alleged that Kevin Piskura was (Tased) in the back as he was trying to crawl away from the scene. This allegation is conclusively contradicted by the majority of other witness statements. Additionally, Patrolman Robinson's sergeant observed the marks from the Taser's probes on Piskura's chest."

Reports from McCullough-Hyde hospital and the Hamilton County Coroner's Office also confirm the Taser's barbs left marks on Piskura's chest. "The Taser was not deployed to Piskura's back and was not deployed more than once," the report states.

By shouting, then pushing, then deploying the Taser, Patrolman Robinson "followed the preferred course of action even though the (Oxford police department's) policy allowed him to skip the use of lower levels of force if the circumstances render their use not 'feasible.'" Therefore, Piper concluded, Robinson complied with department policies and questions of possible criminal charges against him were rendered moot.

Editorial: taser inquiry delays wrong

October 23, 2008
Times Colonist

Robert Dziekanski's mother says she's disappointed and frustrated -- even sickened -- by the delay of a B.C. public inquiry into her son's death after he was shot with a Taser at Vancouver's airport.

Her anguish is understandable. Dziekanski's death on the day he was to start a new life in Canada was a terrible thing to witness. Questions about the appropriateness of the officers' actions, the failures of airport security and the RCMP's lack of policies on Taser use have gone unanswered.

The inquiry was to have started this week. But Thomas Braidwood, the retired B.C. Court of Appeal justice heading the inquiry, said it would have to be delayed. The RCMP and Crown prosecutors had not reached a decision on whether any charges would be laid as a result of the death. Until that is resolved, the RCMP will not participate.

It is important that the case receive a full investigation and that a decision on charges be made with care.

But it has been more than a year since the incident. The investigation, given the global attention, should be a priority for RCMP investigators and the Crown. The decision, one way or the other, should have been made by now.

Braidwood has completed the first phase of his inquiry, into Taser use by municipal police forces in the province. He is expected to have a report by the end of November.

But answers about Robert Dziekanski's death are important. Not just for his mother, but for people around the world who watched the horrifying video of his final moments and wondered whether such a thing had to happen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Silence on Dziekanski a year later is outrageous

October 22, 2008
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

One year -- actually 372-odd days and counting by today -- and still no word on whether four RCMP officers will be charged or disciplined for Tasering Robert Dziekanski, the 44-year-old Polish immigrant who died at Vancouver Airport.

One year! What are prosecutors waiting for -- some statute of limitations on public outrage to run out?

Retired B.C. Court of Appeal justice Thomas Braidwood was this month to begin the second phase of his commission of inquiry into the tragic death, which triggered an international outcry after people around the globe saw an eyewitness video.

His inquiry was postponed until Nov. 12 because the RCMP refuse to participate in the proceedings until a decision is made on the charges.

Braidwood said public confidence is the most important thing the Horsemen have going for them and any erosion of that support would impinge on the ability of police officers to do their job.

That's why he wanted to ensure the four Mounties had every opportunity to tell him what happened without a charge hanging over their head.

And he's right.

Lest we forget, one of the reasons Attorney-General Wally Oppal created this commission is that even he wasn't kept up to speed by the RCMP in the days after Dziekanski's death.

The Crown, however, promised a month ago to decide "by the second week of October" whether charges would be laid over the treatment the burly, distraught Dziekanski received on Oct. 14, 2007.

They didn't say why it was going to take them that long to review the recommendation from the investigators.

Now, by anyone's reckoning, the second week of October has come and gone and still silence. I'm told the Crown wants more information from investigators and it could be another two weeks before a decision is made.

It's incredible it has taken this long -- the delay has done nothing but tarnish the reputation of the RCMP and the B.C. legal system.

As was mentioned during remembrance services Saturday for Dziekanski in Kamloops, where his mom, Zofia Cisowski, lives, all kinds of questions remain unanswered about what happened and why.

"We wait for that public inquiry," Cisowski told people at the service. "I would like to see RCMP in public inquiry. Too many people dead."

Dziekanski, who didn't speak English, landed in Canada after a punishing day-long flight from Europe. He waited in one area of the airport for hours while Cisowski sat nearby in another -- yet both were unable to rouse immigration or airport authorities to help them find each other.

She returned home to Kamloops that fateful night while her son became more and more distressed until finally and fatally police were summoned and he died in the ensuing confrontation.

In the aftermath, RCMP mis-statements about what happened were exposed by the amateur video of the incident and a raging controversy ignited over use of the Taser. Several investigations and inquiries have followed.

What has emerged is that many police officers are indiscriminate in their use of this weapon and deceptive in their reporting about the incidents.

I still find it amazing that the Taser is in use without hard-and-fast regulations. They are being discharged with little or no constraint on the young, the elderly and the infirm.

Police continue to maintain it's better than shooting a suspect, as if every choice were jolt or die. The law-enforcement community and the makers of this space-age immobilizer insist it is safer than other alternatives. Yet there even have been other deaths since Dziekanski was zapped,

Consider, too, as others have pointed out -- any ordinary citizen can go buy a large-calibre handgun, but not one of these devices. Hmmm.

I've never understood what was wrong with a moratorium on the use of Tasers until we have parsed the problems that exist and made some sensible decisions.

Braidwood hopes to have another six weeks of hearings in November, December and January, more if necessary, to establish exactly what happened to Dziekanski.

He is actually conducting two inquiries. The first proceeding, held earlier this year, was on the use, safety and effectiveness of the conducted energy weapons and their use by peace officers in B.C., other than the RCMP. Although the RCMP functions as the provincial and, in most towns, the municipal police in B.C., as a federal force, it answers only to Ottawa.

The ex-justice's report on the use of the Taser is due to be delivered to Attorney-General Oppal Nov. 30.

Maybe we will have heard about charges by then.

Taser use draws fire from Amnesty International - suburban cops start shocking trend

October 22, 2008
By Jessica Van Sack, Boston Herald

Local cops in Bay State suburbs are zapping suspects with Taser jolts at a shocking rate as the state looks the other way and even Boston police have shied away from the controversial weapon, a Herald review has found.

In 2007 alone, the weapons were fired at least 200 times in 30 towns, according to a Herald analysis of quarterly reports from the 30 departments using high-powered stun guns. That’s a four-fold hike from the year before, according to documents from the Executive Office of Public Safety.

Some small-town cops now think of Tasers as the police backup they never had.

“For urban departments, they have a whole bunch of people who show up,” said Greenfield Police Chief David Guilbault. “Here, it’s one-on-one, or it’s 20 to 25 minutes before another person comes. And since we’ve implemented (Tasers), we’ve seen injuries go way down.”

Added Wareham Lt. Irving Wallace: “If I had the money to buy everyone a Taser and put everyone through training, I’d do that.”

Tasers came under fire last month in New York when a man threatening suicide on a ledge fell to his death after being zapped.

The Herald reviewed reports from Wareham, Freetown, Norton and Greenfield showing Tasers were used on many suspects accused of disorderly conduct and threatening suicide with weapons.

One notable foul-up occurred in June 2007 in Nantucket, when a cop pulled the trigger 13 times in the mistaken belief the taser’s probes didn’t have to hit the suspect, just come close. “It was more of a training issue for us,” said Deputy Chief Charles Gibson.

The stunning rise in Taser use has drawn the fire of the local Amnesty International chapter, which says Tasers were supposed to be a non-lethal alternative to gunfire. “Now it seems clear that police departments are using Tasers not as an alternative to lethal force but to get compliance,” said Joshua Rubenstein, northeast regional director for Amnesty. The organization says that since 2001, 320 people have died after being “tased.” Rubenstein said he was disturbed to learn that despite vowing closer scrutiny, the state no longer reviews the circumstances of Taser use - and only tracks the number of zaps and the gender and race of targets.

Not all cops in the ’burbs are sold on the high-voltage stunners. “There are many questions,” said Milton Police Chief Richard G. Wells. “I think that it’s still kind of new. I’d be more inclined to see what some more studies show.”

Even Boston police have yet to arm their officers with the very weapon Hub brass urged the state to embrace four years ago. “My concern was some questionable incidents where people died during the use of Tasers,” said Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, adding that he’s considering the weapon.

Stun-ning numbers
By Herald staff
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Here are the top 10 towns where police reported using tasers most often, according to a May 2008 report by the Executive Office of Public Safety.

The study tallied stun gun use from Oct. 1, 2005, to Sept. 30, 2007, based on quarterly surveys submitted by local departments.

Current figures are still being compiled.

Town / population/ # incidents tasers were used / # times tasers were fired **






Fall River/91,474/8/15





** In some incidents, tasers were fired more than once at more than one suspect.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dziekanski hearing postponed to Nov. 12

October 20, 2008
Katie Mercer, The Province

A public inquiry into the Taser death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski that was to begin today has been delayed until Nov. 12. Dziekanski died soon after being Tasered by four RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport Oct. 14, 2007. Video footage of the Tasering was captured by a witness and broadcast around the world.

The inquiry is to be headed by retired B.C. Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood, who was appointed in February by Attorney-General Wally Oppal to head two hearings. The first studied the use, safety and effectiveness of conducted-energy weapons in B.C. by police forces other than the RCMP.

A report from that hearing is due Nov. 30.

The second hearing will look into the circumstances of Dziekanski's death. It is expected to last six weeks and run over into early 2009, if needed. It will take place in Room 801, the Federal Court Building, 701 West Georgia St., in Vancouver.

A memorial for Dziekanski was held over the weekend in Kamloops, where Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, lives.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mother of man who died after taser incident upset with wait for answers

October 19, 2008
The Canadian Press

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — The mother of a man who died a year ago after he was stunned by a Taser at Vancouver's airport says she's upset about how long it's taken to get answers about her son's death.

Robert Dziekanski collapsed and died after being shocked by a Taser as four Mounties confronted the agitated man early on the morning of Oct. 14, 2007.

About 75 people attended a memorial for Dziekanski that was held over the weekend in Kamloops, B.C., where Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, lives.

Cisowski said she's upset about the length of time it has taken to find out exactly what happened. "I'm very disappointed, because they delayed (the inquiry) almost one year," said Cisowski. "I'm sick about it, frustrated, of course."

Dziekanski's death made headlines around the world and prompted heavy scrutiny of the RCMP and its use of Tasers after eyewitness video was made public. The video showed officers shocking Dziekanski within seconds of their arrival at the airport. The incident prompted several investigations, including a two-part public inquiry in Vancouver.

The first phase, examining Taser use in general, wrapped up earlier this year and a report is scheduled to be handed over to the province's attorney general by Nov. 30. But the second phase examining the circumstances of Dziekanski's death, which was scheduled to begin Monday, has been delayed until Nov. 12. The inquiry has said the delay was necessary to give the Crown time to decide whether any charges will be laid in the case.

The RCMP has said it can't fully participate in a public inquiry until that has been decided.

Cops 'on dirty side'

October 19, 2008

Patrick Quinn is the first to tell you that he's been on the wrong side of the law for too long, feeding a ravenous drug habit with a steady diet of petty crimes.

But approaching his 35th birthday, with a baby on the way and a girlfriend who gave him an ultimatum to get clean or she'd walk, the roofer decided it was finally time to turn a new page.

"It took me longer to grow up and get my act together than most people," he says sheepishly, as his newborn son, Patrick Jr., sleeps in a corner of their new apartment. "I didn't want to lose her or my son."


He is a wiry man with a small beard on his chin and sweat pants that hang on his thin frame, but the former crack addict says he's been clean now for 14 months with the help of addiction counselling. "My life was changing," Quinn insists. "Finally, things were falling together for me."

His past, though, would not let him go.

It was this past Jan. 15, the day before his birthday, when he was pulled over in Mississauga by Peel police. He wasn't surprised when they arrested him -- because of a "miscommunication." He had missed signing in with his probation officer and knew there was a warrant for him.

It's what followed that he claims left him not only in shock but battered, bruised and burned after more than 12 hours of what he alleges was absolute "torture" by four rogue cops in 12 Division who were intent on beating and Tasering him until he was willing to cough up dirt on criminals he used to know.

On Tuesday, Peel Regional Police and dozens of unnamed officers and the Peel Police Services Board were served with a $9-million lawsuit claiming Quinn was beaten and Tasered in the police station and the assault was covered up by others. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

"We did recently receive the claim," confirms Staff Sgt. Taufic Saliba. "The matter is now before the court and we cannot comment."

Quinn knows his tale of police brutality sounds like something out of an American movie. "These cops are on the dirty side," he claims. "I don't want to sound like a New York TV show, but they are bending rules and breaking rules to whatever suits their needs."

According to his statement of claim, Quinn was beaten by three male and one female officer in an interrogation room at 12 Division after he refused to make a deal to swap freedom for information about former acquaintances dealing guns.

It is the same police station where Sean Reilly, 42, was Tasered and later died during a struggle with four officers in the cell area last month.

While he did grow up with "Twinkie," a Caribana shooter doing time for murder, Quinn told the police he didn't know his friends or their criminal activities. Unconvinced, his interrogators began putting on their black gloves and Quinn says he immediately knew what was coming.

He was pummelled until he could hear his ribs cracking, he says, and was left broken on the floor, vomiting and fighting for breath. More than five hours later, he says they finally agreed to take him to hospital.

On his way to Trillium Health Centre, he says he saw a text message on the patrol car's computer to the effect, "Quinn is an idiot if he thinks it's good for him to go to the hospital." He was warned that he was only making it worse for himself.

He says doctors told him there was too much swelling to determine if his ribs were broken. He was prescribed pain and anti-inflammatory drugs as well as medication for his epilepsy, but never received anything from the police.

Still, he thought his night of hell was over. Instead, he says it was just beginning.

He was taken back to the interrogation room where he says the original four officers were waiting. "Cut the lights," one said. And Quinn claims the beating began anew.

"I'm in the corner and they have me semi-circled and there are boots coming at me. I remember being shocked that she was the first one to kick me square in the face," he alleges of the female officer.

Then one pulled out a small Taser, he says.


"I lost track after they Tasered me about 10 times," he claims, pointing to burn scars that remain on his arms. "You see blue flashing lights, your knees give out, your ankles give and your marbles go jiggly for a while."

He says he was so swollen and bruised by the time he was remanded to Maplehurst Detention Centre that guards took photographs when he arrived so they couldn't be later accused of assault.

His lawyer, David Shiller, is now in the process of getting those photos as well as hospital and police records from that night which he believes will corroborate Quinn's stunning allegations. Because right now, it's just a former criminal's word against that of a respected police service, something his lawsuit claims they knew was in their favour:

"The officers assaulted and tortured Mr. Quinn thinking that because he was a drug addict and career criminal without any credibility, nobody would believe him."

But he refuses to be intimidated, not when he is turning his life around and building a new family, with a newborn sleeping in a bassinet beside him and his new roofing business in the midst of its biggest contract ever.

"It's the principle of the whole thing," Quinn insists. "The police are not supposed to beat people up to get information out of them. It just wasn't right."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Inquiry begins into taser death of Robert Dziekanski

October 18, 2008
Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER - A public inquiry into the Taser death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski begins Monday in Vancouver. Dziekanski died shortly after an RCMP officer used a Taser on him at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007. Video footage of Dziekanski being Tasered by the RCMP and then dying was captured by a witness and broadcast around the world.

The inquiry will look at the circumstances surrounding the death. It's headed by retired B.C. Appeal Court justice Thomas R. Braidwood. He was appointed in February by B.C Attorney-General Wally Oppal to head two hearings. The first was to study the use, safety and effectiveness of conducted energy weapons in B.C. by police forces other than the RCMP. The second phase will be a public hearing into the death of Dziekanski and is expected to last about six weeks. If more time is needed, it will be scheduled in early 2009.

Man dead after being Tasered by police

October 18, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

Homer Taylor, 39, Chicago, Illinois

A man who allegedly threatened police with a sharp-edged object is dead after being Tasered by officers Saturday afternoon on the West Side. The incident happened about 2 p.m. in the 5000 block of West Washington Boulevard as police officers on bike patrol viewed an erratic person drinking from an open bottle, according to police News Affairs.

As officers approached the person, he became combative with what appeared to be a sharp-edged object and threatened officers with it, police said. He then fled and a foot chase ensued. The person resisted arrest and was subdued with a Taser discharge, police said.

Police said the person appeared to have ingested an unknown amount of narcotics and was pronounced dead at the scene. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office has been notified of a fatality at the address but did not have the person’s age, gender or identity Saturday evening.

Emergency crews were initially called to assist police and they took a 20-year-old man to Loretto Hospital in critical condition, Fire Media Affairs spokesman Joe Roccasalva said.

Investigators from the Independent Police Review Authority were sent to the scene, according to IPRA spokesman Mark Payne. “We look at Taser incidents just as we look at any police-involved shooting,” Payne said. The incident remains under investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority.

Justice for Robert Dziekanski's mom?


Latest Commentary - Justice for Robert Dziekanski's mom?
October 16, 2008

This from today's Vancouver Sun:

"Crown wants more evidence on fatal YVR Taser incident
Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, October 16, 2008
The Crown is seeking further materials before deciding whether charges are warranted against RCMP officers involved in a fatal incident a year ago when a Polish man was jolted with a Taser at Vancouver International Airport. "We're awaiting further materials, including expert reports," Stan Lowe of the B.C. criminal justice branch said Wednesday. "Once we have those, we will continue to expedite the process." Lowe declined to provide an estimate of how much longer the charge assessment process may take."


Over a year ago, four burly armed men confronted a tired, confused and disoriented unarmed immigrant in a public place and immediately shot him with 50,000 volts of electricity from a "less than lethal" prohibited weapon. The whole incident was captured on videotape and everyone involved was immediately identified.

Why do those in our criminal justice system, supposedly one of the best in the world, need to take more than a year to decide whether the law may have been broken? Why should it take more than a year to decide whether to lay charges?

The answer is obvious.

In British Columbia, as far as I can tell, no police officer has ever faced a criminal trial in respect of a death occurring after the intentional application of force to a member of the public. To put it another way, police officers in BC enjoy immunities that the rest of us do not.

In the Dziekanski incident, any lawyer worth his or her salt will say that the videotape showed police using more force than was reasonably necessary to deal with the unfortunate Robert Dziekanski....

In my opinion, all this time is being taken, not to gather evidence to support a charge, but to gather evidence to support a decision not to lay a charge.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Anonymous wrote to me today regarding the French spy case re-reported below. Here's what Anonymous wants to know:

This guy is not a Taser employee, why are you posting false information??? This guy runs his own independent company that sell stun guns. What's your point here other then harassment??

To which, I replied:

Well, anonymous, there are many police officers who are not taser employees either, yet I post reports about police officers almost daily. This entire issue has dark, dank corners worldwide that haven’t yet seen the light of day. I sweep up the dustballs that catch my eye and deposit them into this one place (truthnottasers) until the day when someone can finally piece together the puzzle. That was the original intent of this website and so it remains. I am not here to harass anyone at all. Believe me, I don’t make this stuff up – who could?! I simply re-report it for the many who DO think I (and others) may be onto something. I believe it's all pretty relevant and relational.

French spy case suspect says he hired private eye

October 17, 2008

PARIS (AP) - The head of the French distributor of Taser stun guns has acknowledged hiring a private eye to gather information about far-left politician Olivier Besancenot. Antoine Di Zazzo, who heads Taser distributor SMP Technologies, was one of seven people handed initial charges in a probe Thursday. The investigation grew out of Besancenot's complaint that he and his family were spied on. Besancenot has spoken out against Tasers, saying the stun guns were responsible for 150 deaths in the U.S.

Di Zazzo acknowledges he paid a private detective agency to find out where Besancenot lived and get information about property he owned. In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Di Zazzo denied that amounted to spying.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Crown wants more evidence on fatal YVR taser incident

October 16, 2008
Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun

The Crown is seeking further materials before deciding whether charges are warranted against RCMP officers involved in a fatal incident a year ago when a Polish man was jolted with a Taser at Vancouver International Airport. "We're awaiting further materials, including expert reports," Stan Lowe of the B.C. criminal justice branch said Wednesday. "Once we have those, we will continue to expedite the process." Lowe declined to provide an estimate of how much longer the charge assessment process may take.

Edmonton cops fire taser 5 (or was it 6??) times, then pin teen with cruiser

October 16, 2008
The Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - A 16-year-old boy refused to drop a knife even after police tried five times to zap him with a Taser on Wednesday night. Eventually they pinned the teenager against a fence with a police cruiser. The incident started with a fight between the teen and his father, said police Staff Sgt. Langford Bawn. The teen got a black eye in the fight, then left the house with a knife.

Police were called shortly after 5 p.m. to a spot near 99th Street and 169th Avenue. When efforts to subdue the teenager with a Taser failed, an officer drove his car at the teen and pinned him against a fence. Then they kicked the knife from his hand. The teen was not seriously injured.

The driving manoeuvre was done carefully, police said. "It's either that or shoot him," Bawn said. "You drive slow and do what you can do." It's unclear how many times the Taser prongs connected and actually shocked the teenager.

He was arrested, then taken to a hospital to be checked out.

The CANADIAN PRESS is reporting that the teen was tasered SIX times:

EDMONTON — Edmonton police zapped a teenager who had brawled with his father six times with an electronic stun gun.

Police say officers were called to a confrontation where they found a 16-year-old youth walking with a knife near a condominium. When he refused to stop police said they fired Tasers at him but the darts from the weapons failed to penetrate his heavy coat.

The youth pulled the darts out and kept going, prompting officers to fire four more Taser rounds at him without success.

He was eventually stopped when police pinned him between a cruiser and a fence and fired a sixth Taser round that hit his unprotected leg, immobilizing him.

The youth was treated at hospital for injuries.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Head of Taser distributor in France arrested

October 15, 2008
Andrew Johnson, Arizona Republic

French police arrested the head of a company that distributes stun guns in France for Scottsdale-based Taser International Inc. on Tuesday, according to foreign news reports.

Authorities detained Antoine Di Zazzo and nine other people, including police officers and private detectives, on suspicion that they spied on Olivier Besancenot, a former presidential candidate in France who publicly questioned the safety of Taser's devices, reports stated.

Di Zazzo runs SMP Technologies, which has had an agreement with Taser since 2005 to exclusively distribute the company's stun guns to law-enforcement agencies in France.

Some news reports referred to Di Zazzo's company as "Taser France." But Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said Di Zazzo is not a Taser employee, and Taser does not own or operate SMP.

"Antoine is purely a distributor in France," Tuttle said.

"He is not an employee in any way, shape or form."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

France: ten people detained on suspicion of spying on ex-presidential candidate

October 14, 2008
Radio France International

Ten people were detained by Paris police on Tuesday on suspicion of spying on Olivier Besancenot, the spokesman for France's Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) party. Besancenot is a former presidential candidate and while he took only four per cent of the vote in 2007, he is regularly identified as one of the most popular politicians on the left in France.

The ten brought into custody include policemen, detectives from a private detective agency and Antoine di Zazzo, the head of the company that sells Taser guns in France. They were detained as part of a probe into claims by Besancenot, following an investigation by Express magazine, that he has been spied on from October 2007 to January this year.

SMP technologies is taking Besancenot to court for having referred to the number of people who have died in the US from Taser pistols which fires 50,000 volts as a "non-lethal" deterrant. This trial is due to open next week on 20 October.

Beseancenot has said Di Zazzo is "seeking 50,000 euros from me just because I drew attention to an Amnesty International report", referring to an Amnesty document that says Taser weapons have caused hundreds of deaths and have called for a moratorium on their use.

Di Zazzo is suspected of having commissioned police, private detectives and bank employees to spy on the LCR spokesman. Last May the businessman denied the accusations saying, "We never asked to have Mr. Besancenot followed - Why would we? His private life is of interest to us."

The suspicions concern the consulting of the vehicle registation and bank account details of Besancenot as well as photographs of his partner and child outside their home.

Reports in France on Tuesday claimed a link had already been established between the detective agency, which is run by a former police officer, and Di Zazzo's SMP Technologies.

News of the detentions comes shortly after opposition in France to a new Intelligence-gathering bill, called Edvige. Besancenot said the allegation of the spying plot was "one more reason to oppose Edvige."

And just last week in France, this news: Two bailiffs presented Monday to the mayor of Lille a summons on behalf of Martine Aubry from the company SMP Technologies, the exclusive distributor in France of the TASER X 26. Asked last Sunday on Canal, whether he would equip municipal police officers in her city with the X23 the mayor responded, "It's dangerous there have already been 290 deaths in North America" she said. The use of this equipment by municipal police officers was authorized in late September by an order of the Ministry of Interior. Antoine Di Zazzo, owner of SMP Technologies, said he was shocked by the statements of Martine Aubry he has since tried in vain to call her. He therefore decided to send a summons giving him 48 hours to "prove the facts of the 290 victims of which she spoke." "When we assume the highest responsibilities, we must therefore speak responsibly with out outlandish accusations." he says. If he does not give the names, we will sue for derogatory slander of our product. SMP Technologies has already a defamation suit against Olivier Besancenot who also spoke of Taser deaths.