February 25, 2009
James Keller, THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER, B.C. - Robert Dziekanski's mother rejected an apology from one of the Mounties involved in her son's death almost as fast as the words left the officer's mouth at a public inquiry Wednesday.
Const. Bill Bentley was talking about photographs he had taken at Vancouver's airport the night Dziekanski was stunned with a Taser and died in October 2007.
The judge told Bentley's lawyer that he was out of time for the day, prompting David Butcher to abruptly change topic and ask his client if he had anything to say to Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski.
"That I'm sorry for her loss and that my heart goes out to her and her family," said Bentley.
Outside the inquiry, Cisowski flatly rejected the apology, and said she told Bentley as much as he walked out of court. "I was close to him, and I said I didn't accept," said Cisowski. "I don't accept any sorry, it's too late."
Earlier, Bentley testified that Dziekanski's skin quickly turned blue as he lay on the airport floor within minutes of being stunned. Bentley also said he asked the three other officers whether any of them had a Taser well before they confronted Dziekanski. Bentley insisted Dziekanski was breathing, but his skin turned a light shade of blue within minutes.
He said he radioed a dispatcher for a routine ambulance less than three minutes after the first of five Taser jolts. Then, 12 seconds later, Bentley asked for the call to be upgraded, saying over the radio that Dziekanski was unconscious but breathing.
"Shortly after I made my initial call, his skin started turning a bluish colour," said Bentley, the second officer to testify at the public inquiry into Dziekanski's death. "I became deeply concerned so I upgraded the call to Code 3."
Bentley, who was trained in first aid, said he never told any of his colleagues what he saw, and none of the officers performed a proper breathing and pulse check. He said a security guard was checking Dziekanski's vital signs.
Bentley said he could hear Dziekanski breathing. "It's a loud breathing like when you go out for a hard run, you exhaust yourself physically, trying to catch a breath," he said.
By the time firefighters arrived, Dziekanski had no pulse, wasn't breathing and the fire captain on duty that night has said Dziekanski was likely already dead.
Bentley said as he approached, he could see broken furniture on the floor and felt Dziekanski, who he described as having wide eyes, was looking for a fight. "Law-enforcement experience, my gut instinct told me that he was going to start a fight with us," said Bentley, who had been on the force for less than two years at that time. "I turned my head back to the side, and directed a general question at the other officers, asking them something to the effect of, 'Do you have a Taser on?"'
Bentley said he was simply checking to see what tools would be available, and the officers hadn't yet planned how they would respond.
While he said Dziekanski looked like he wanted a fight, Bentley also described him as calm. "He wasn't doing anything else," said Bentley. "He seemed calm, his hands were at his side, I'd classify it as co-operative."
After he and other officers tried talking with Dziekanski, Bentley said the Polish man quickly became "resistant" when he turned away and flipped his hands in the air. He then turned around holding a stapler, and Bentley said he was swinging it at the officers.
"I thought I was going to be hit with the stapler," he said.
Bentley also said he didn't realize the Taser had been used more than twice until seeing a report from Crown prosecutors.
The Taser was used five times, and the inquiry heard that the weapon's internal computer indicated the 50,000-volt device was deployed for a total of 31 seconds. However, that records the length of the deployment, not necessarily the amount of time Dziekanski was shocked.
The Crown announced in December that Rundel, Bentley, Const. Kwesi Millington and Cpl. Benjamin Robinson would not face criminal charges. However, the inquiry's commissioner could still make findings of misconduct against the officers or anyone else involved.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
February 25, 2009