February 10, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, The Province
An airline employee who witnessed the Tasering of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport told the Braidwood inquiry yesterday that his hands turned "very, very blue" as RCMP officers handled him.
Alison Kula, a Horizon Airlines customer service representative, testified that Dziekanski became distraught after midnight on Oct. 14, 2007, and that she believed he was trying to get help by attracting attention.
Dziekanski was blocking sliding glass doors from the public "meet and greet" area into the secure international-arrivals area.
The inquiry into his death has heard he was attempting to get back to the baggage carousel, where his mother had told him to wait for her. At that point, he'd spent 10 hours at the airport after a 24-hour journey from Poland.
Kula told inquiry lawyer Patrick McGowan that she and two other Horizon employees called airport security and 911, "because no one was coming to help him." She was told that RCMP were on their way.
Kula testified that four RCMP officers arrived, and "in a few seconds" shot Dziekanski with a Taser several times.
"He was writhing and screaming in pain on the ground . . . one [officer] was behind him on his legs and the other was on top of him" near his head, said Kula.
"The officers were pushing him toward the ground face-first and trying to get his arms so they could handcuff him."
Kula said that Dziekanski was soon face-down and handcuffed behind his back.
"I remember his hands were blue, very, very blue, the bluest I have ever seen on a person," said Kula.
She said she saw only one person, in a dark suit, take Dziekanski's pulse and then he, too, left the man lying there.
She saw Richmond firefighters arrive, followed by B.C. Ambulance paramedics, who turned Dziekanski on his back, revealing that "his face was also blue."
Genevieve Deziel, another Horizon employee on duty that night, said she saw a "distressed" Dziekanski trying to get help, and that she was surprised that the security guards monitoring surveillance cameras didn't respond.
The inquiry has heard several of the surveillance cameras either weren't working or weren't monitored.
"There was no one around -- airport personnel or security," said Deziel, who then saw the RCMP "rush in" without talking to bystanders, deploy their Taser and restrain Dziekanski until he was motionless and began to turn blue.
Deziel also said she was surprised not to see the RCMP start chest compressions or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
The four RCMP officers involved will not face criminal charges, the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch announced last December. Each has his own lawyer at the inquiry. The officers are slated to testify the week of Feb. 23.
The inquiry continues before former Appeal Court judge Tom Braidwood until early March. It will recess for two weeks and resume later in the month.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
February 10, 2009