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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Witness had 'alpha-male' dispute with Dziekanski

February 4, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, The Province

A limousine driver who had an angry confrontation with Robert Dziekanski at the airport said yesterday he was traumatized when he heard a day later that Dziekanski had died.

Lorne Meltzer was at the airport on Oct. 14, 2007, to pick up a client at international arrivals and found Dziekanski and his suitcases blocking entrance to the glass doors leading to the secure area.

The Braidwood Inquiry into Dzie-kanski's death heard yesterday that Meltzer gave a statement to police, after the Polish immigrant's death, saying he got into an "alpha-male" kind of dispute with Dziekanski.

In testimony, Meltzer remembered calling Dziekanski "a f---ing a--hole" and getting angry for three reasons: "One, I couldn't get in the door; I couldn't speak to him and I'm being paid to meet somebody -- if I miss somebody, it's not good for the credibility of my company."

Metzer said Dziekanski threw furniture, paced and muttered to himself, but didn't pose a threat to anyone.

He admitted he suggested out loud that somebody should Taser Dziekanski to subdue him.

But Metzer said he wept and was sleepless for weeks when he saw in the media the next day that Dziekanski had died after RCMP Tasered him.

"I felt like hell. I couldn't sleep for like two weeks. I remember calling Robert's mother and apologizing and just crying, saying I wish I could have done something [for him]," said Meltzer, his voice cracking with emotion.

Meltzer said he suffered "panic attacks" and recurring nightmares, reliving the death "as fresh as yesterday."

"I had dreams, where I was being chased, but I'm stuck to the ground and I can't do anything. I wish I could have done more."

Meltzer said he also became angry when the RCMP Integrated Homicide Investigation Unit interviewed him. He felt they tried to "frame" him, or "suggest that I might have some liability" for touching off Dziekanski's outburst.

Meltzer was interviewed at the airport the night Dziekanski died by RCMP Const. Bill Bentley, one of the four RCMP officers involved in the Tasering, but wasn't told that Dziekanski did not survive the Tasering and restraint.

The four RCMP officers are not facing criminal charges, but each has his own lawyer at the inquiry.

The inquiry also heard from airport cleaner Jame Canzon, who said that he spoke to, but couldn't understand, Dziekanski, who spoke no English.

"He was very harmless," said Canzon, who also testified he saw no one helping Dziekanski once he lay motionless.

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