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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mounties regarded stapler as a weapon

February 25, 2009
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- One of four Mounties involved in a fatal confrontation with Robert Dziekanski says he regrets the Polish immigrant's death, but stands by the officers' tactics and the use of a taser to subdue him.

"Based on the knowledge we had at the time, we wouldn't have done anything differently," Constable Gerry Rundel said yesterday near the end of a day of testimony at the Braidwood inquiry into Mr. Dziekanski's death. "It's obviously a very terrible outcome to the call we had to answer," he added.

The officer's testimony, which began on Monday, marked the first time any of the Mounties has spoken publicly about the events of Oct. 14, 2007. Yesterday, Constable Rundel faced cross-examination by various lawyers, including Walter Kosteckyj, who represents Mr. Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski.

Ms. Cisowski wept as Constable Rundel spoke.

The officer tried to explain the threat posed to four armed Mounties by the stapler Mr. Dziekanski was wielding when he was subjected to the first of five taser blasts, tackled and handcuffed. Mr. Dziekanski died soon after. The cause of death has been listed as "sudden death following restraint."

Constable Rundel told federal lawyer Helen Roberts he regarded the stapler as a weapon.

"Now if you walked into an office and someone was using a stapler, would you consider that to be a weapon?" she asked.

"No," he replied.

"What was it about the scenario you encountered that made you think this object ... could be a weapon?" she asked.

"The manner [with] which Mr. Dziekanski took up the stapler into his hand and took up the combative stance," Constable Rundel replied. "It was my observation that he had full intention of using the stapler as a weapon to assist in his possible use of force on us at that time."

Mounties at the RCMP's Vancouver airport detachment were responding to a dispatcher's call about a man who appeared to be intoxicated and was throwing objects and breaking glass. Mr. Dziekanski, 40, had spent more than a day travelling to Canada to begin a new life with his mother, who lives in Kamloops. He had spent 10 hours waiting for her at the airport, but they never connected. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system.

The four officers approached Mr. Dziekanski in the international arrivals area. Constable Kwesi Millington, the only officer armed with a taser, used the device on the orders of Corporal Benjamin Robinson, the most senior officer present.

Constable Rundel said he did not remember any conversation among the officers about using the taser, but expected it would be used because Mr. Dziekanski had picked up the stapler and was in a "combative posture."

Nor did anyone ask Mr. Dziekanski to put down the stapler. "Time did not allow that," the officer testified.

Constable Rundel agreed that Mr. Dziekanski may have been scared. "Now that I have had the opportunity to look back at the video prior to us arriving and the information that has been since received, it's possible he was frightened, yes," he said.

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