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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

'Appalling' testimony draws guffaws from the gallery

March 3, 2009
By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

The public gallery now is laughing in disbelief at the RCMP version of events the night Robert Dziekanski was Tasered and died at Vancouver International Airport.

Const. Kwesi Millington, 32, became the third officer Monday to acknowledge his notes, his statements and the report he was required to make after deploying the conducted energy weapon were riddled with errors.

He admitted at the public inquiry into the tragedy that you would have a "distorted view" of the incident if you read his accounts as opposed to viewing an amateur video that captured what happened Oct. 14, 2007.

Millington didn't even get right the number of times he zapped the 40-year-old Polish immigrant with the conducted energy weapon.

After watching the video of Dziekanski screaming in agony, collapsing to the floor writhing in pain, Millington maintained he was justified in jolting him -- again, again, again and again.

In all, the weapon's internal memory showed the officer deployed the Taser five times. And he said he'd do it again.

After the first blast, Dziekanski ended up on the floor with his feet in the air but Millington said he "perceived" him to be still standing.

"From my training, the effects of the Taser being fired are that the person being applied against is supposed to fall immediately and supposed to immobilize them," he told the inquiry.

"It didn't have that effect on Mr. Dziekanski so I fired again."

Millington said during his third attempted discharge of the Taser he heard a clacking noise that indicated the weapon wasn't working properly.

He then removed its probe cartridge, applied the Taser directly to Dziekanski's back and deployed it in what he called "pain compliance" mode.

"He was still kicking and fighting and struggling with members," Millington explained.

The Mountie, who is six-feet-one inch, 205 pounds -- about four inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than Dziekanski -- insisted throughout that he was scared for himself and the safety of his colleagues.

This was the first and only time he has ever used the device.

Like the others, he wore a Kevlar vest, carried a firearm, a baton and pepper spray. Nevertheless, he thought Dziekanski was dangerous.

"He had the stapler open, his other fist raised; he was in a combative stance as we call it, and was approaching the officers, I believe with the intent to attack so I deployed the Taser," Millington said.

"I thought he was going to attack. I acted to stop the threat."

It was an appalling performance by a professional police officer and sparked chortles and guffaws from some in the audience.

His lawyer was forced to rise.

"There should be some decorum," Ravi Hira complained. "I'm concerned about noises from the audience."

Thankfully, Dziekanski's mother was unable to attend and did not have to endure the constable's painfully inadequate testimony about why he pulled the trigger again and again and again and again.

Even commission counsel Art Vertlieb seemed incredulous.

He continued his questioning by asking the officer to stand and display the threatening gesture Dziekanski made with the stapler.

"Don't go there," warned inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood before Vertlieb could ridicule the Mountie.

Millington is the third of the four RCMP officers who confronted Dziekanski to testify and each has recited a near identical story using similar language that has been shown to be misleading on the same key points.

Const. Bill Bentley, Const. Gerry Rundel and Millington, who were all junior cops with little experience, exaggerated the threat posed by Dziekanski and described him as more volatile and menacing than he was.

After the incident, the three were sent to the detachment office where they spent time together without any other officer present before being questioned by investigators looking into Dziekanski's death.

They also got together for a critical incident debriefing Oct. 27, about a fortnight before the video was made public.

Millington, though, said he and the others have not discussed what happened nor did they compare stories before testifying.

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