February 25, 2009
With files from The Canadian Press
With his hand clenched around a stapler, Robert Dziekanski posed a real threat to the four Mounties who surrounded him and to passersby at Vancouver's airport, one of the officers told a public inquiry Wednesday.
Const. Gerry Rundel has maintained that Dziekanski was holding a stapler up to his chest with his other hand in a fist just before he was stunned five times with an RCMP Taser in the early morning of Oct. 14, 2007.
"I venture to say I don't know where that could have ended, but it could have gone bad," Rundel told the inquiry into Dziekanski's death.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he took up the combative stance, and he had every intent to injure, attempt to injure, harm us officers and anybody in the public."
Rundel has already testified that he feared for his safety and saw the stapler as a weapon, but expanded Wednesday on just how much of a threat he perceived.
Don Rosenbloom, a lawyer for the government for Dziekanski's home country of Poland, suggested to Rundel that the man wasn't about to run away, and didn't pose a real risk to the officers forming a semi-circle around him.
Rundel replied that Dziekanski was unpredictable, and noted that it took multiple Taser jolts and four RCMP officers to finally restrain Dziekanski and put him in handcuffs.
"He was not in a frame of mind that he was thinking rationally," replied Rundel.
"The amount of energy that I experienced that he had, if he were to use that in any other way than resisting us, on members of the public, that was a dangerous situation."
Several witnesses who watched Dziekanski throw furniture around before police arrived have testified they weren't afraid of the man, including a woman who tried to calm him and a five-foot-tall janitor who walked by him without incident.
But Rundel insisted he felt Dziekanski was about to become violent, and said a bystander's video of the incident -- where Dziekanski's back is to the camera and his hands are out of view -- supports his story.
"Faced with video footage, will you now acknowledge that you and your fellow officers fell far short of prudent conduct?" asked Rosenbloom.
"After looking at the video, I see the video fully supports my version of the events ... so my answer to your question is absolutely not," replied Rundel, who appeared to grow impatient with the questioning and asked the commissioner several times during cross-examination if he had to answer certain questions.
The Taser was used five times, and the inquiry heard that the weapon's internal computer indicated that 50,000 volts coursed through the probes 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, Const. Bill 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.
Bentley's lawyer told the inquiry that he's worried the Polish government is considering legal action against his client and asked for restrictions to be placed on exhibits and transcripts.
David Butcher didn't elaborate and cited only "anecdotal information," but said he became concerned after Rosenbloom's cross-examination of Rundel.
"It became apparent to me that he, as an agent of the government of Poland, was taking an active part in securing evidence from this officer and presumably from the other officers," said Butcher.
Butcher asked the inquiry commissioner, retired judge Thomas Braidwood, to ensure official, certified transcripts and exhibits from the inquiry aren't "transmitted internationally," although he said he wasn't asking for a publication ban.
Copies of exhibits are routinely distributed to the media and transcripts are available on the inquiry's website.
Braidwood made no immediate decision on the request but noted official exhibits and certified transcripts wouldn't leave the commission without a court order.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
February 25, 2009