February 24, 2009
Neal Hall, Canwest News Service
Police were justified in using a Taser stun gun on a Polish immigrant in 2007 because the man was agitated, failed to obey police commands, and caused police to fear for their safety, an RCMP officer told an inquiry Monday.
RCMP Const. Gerry Rundel said the fact Robert Dziekanski spoke no English was not a factor in his failure to obey police commands.
He recalled that, seconds after police arrived on the scene -- at the international-arrivals exit at Vancouver's airport -- Dziekanski tossed a chair against a glass wall, then motioned toward his luggage.
Rundel recalled RCMP Cpl. Benjamin Robinson told Dziekanski, "No," in an authoritative voice, holding out the palm of his hand to signal he could not go into his luggage.
"Mr. Dziekanski clearly understood the command," the witness told the inquiry, which is probing Dziekanski's death and the use of Tasers in B.C.
Dziekanski then "disobeyed Cpl. Robinson by flipping up his hands and leaving," Rundel said.
"My interpretation of that was, 'To hell with you guys -- I'm out of here,'" he said. "I didn't see it myself, but he grabbed a metal object, later determined to be a stapler. He had a firm grasp of it."
Rundel said Dziekanski assumed a combative pose, swinging the stapler in front of his body and balling his hands into fists at chest level, then moved his left foot forward as if preparing to fight.
The inquiry was told earlier that, once the four officers surrounded him, Dziekanski's final words, spoken in Polish, were: "Leave me alone! Are you out of your mind? Why?"
That's when Const. Kwesi Millington deployed the Taser, Rundel said.
Dziekanski yelled, indicating he was feeling the Taser shock, but he didn't fall, the witness recalled.
"Hit him again," Robinson told Millington, meaning:Deploy the stun gun again, Rundel said.
After the second shock, Dziekanski dropped the stapler and fell to the ground.
Rundel said he thought Dziekanski was Tasered twice, but the inquiry has heard the Taser was deployed five times.
Rundel and Const. Bill Bentley then moved in to handcuff Dziekanski.
They had a prolonged struggle, handcuffing his hands behind his back. Rundel had to put his weight on Dziekanski's back and hold his legs down.
"Once Mr. Dziekanski was handcuffed, there was still a kicking motion for five or 10 seconds," before he stopped resisting, Rundel said. Minutes later, he said, Dziekanski was snoring, indicating he was unconscious.
Dziekanski died at the scene.
When a video showing his final moments was shown in the courtroom Monday, Dziekanski's mother began crying. She left court sobbing.
Patrick McGowan, a lawyer for inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood, asked Rundel if he interpreted Dziekanski's movements on the ground, and the noises he was making, as evidence of resistance.
"Yes," Rundel replied.
"Did you consider it might have something to do with him being Tasered again?"
"No," Rundel replied.
Rundel recalled he and his three colleagues were having lunch together at the airport RCMP detachment when the dispatcher called out that there was an intoxicated non-white male throwing around luggage at the airport. (He turned out to be neither intoxicated nor non-white.)
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
February 24, 2009