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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Stapler key to Taser inquiry focus, commissioner says.

February 5, 2009
By Suzanne Fournier, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER - Taser inquiry commissioner Tom Braidwood on Wednesday requested both still photo captures and a slow-motion version of the infamous video of the Tasering and death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport.

Braidwood said a key issue emerging at the inquiry is whether Dziekanski raised his hand while wielding a stapler before he was hit by the first shot from a Taser deployed by one of four RCMP officers.

``One of the issues here is the sequence of how does the production of the Taser relate to the stapler in the chap's hand?'' said Braidwood, referring to suggestions by lawyers for two of the RCMP officers that Dziekanski may have brandished the stapler as a weapon.

Witness Sima Ashrafinia, who speaks four languages and tried to communicate with the distraught traveller on Oct. 14, 2007, testified that Dziekanski did pick up a stapler. After repeated viewing of the Pritchard video Wednesday, she recalled: ``I heard the sound of the Taser pop and that is the only time his hand goes up; you see the stapler.

``The only time Mr. Dziekanski raised both arms was when the four officers came at him, and he turned around . . . as if he is surrendering,'' said Ashrafinia, who was waiting at the airport for her husband to arrive from New York.

The video, shot by bystander Paul Pritchard, shows four RCMP officers arrive at the airport and deploy a Taser within seconds on a distraught Dziekanski, who had spent 10 hours in the airport after a flight from Poland to be reunited with his mother Zofia Cisowski.

Cisowski was in court Wednesday, but left visibly upset as the Pritchard video of her son's death was replayed.

Ashrafinia also was adamant that the RCMP officers didn't ask Dziekanski for his passport or assess the scene first. ``No, they walked right in, they didn't care what's going on,'' she said.

Ashrafinia, who fled Iran and has lived in Canada for 20 years, said: ``I come from a country with lots of violence. I am not a stranger to violence, but I never expected such a quick decision from a group of people who (are supposed to uphold) law and order.''

Earlier in the day, limousine driver Lorne Meltzer testified he got into a shouting match with Dziekanski, swore at him, called security guards and police and said someone should Taser the man to subdue him. But outside the inquiry, Meltzer said Dziekanski should never have been Tasered so fast and so many times.

``The amount of times he was Tasered, five times, is drastic, and his heart was probably beating as fast as if he'd run up 100 flights of stairs, and then to have all of them on him . . . I don't think was appropriate,'' he said.

Meltzer denied he was the person who ``provoked'' Dziekanski's outbursts. ``I don't feel I was the guy who put him over the top, no.''

The inquiry continues.

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