March 23, 2009
By Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER - The fourth and final Mountie involved in the fatal incident at Vancouver's airport in 2007 is now testifying at the Braidwood Inquiry.
RCMP Cpl. Monty Robinson was the senior commanding officer in the early morning hours of Oct. 14, 2007, when Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski was Tasered five times and died minutes later.
Robinson testified Monday he spent a few seconds putting on his leather gloves before dealing with Dziekanski.
He recalled an airport security guard said the man was "freaking out" and another person suggested the man only spoke Russian.
Robinson said the three other officers interacted first with the man.
One of the officers, he recalled, asked Dziekanski: "How's it goin', bud?"
By the time he moved forward to Dziekanski, he was moving toward his luggage, which Robinson thought was potentially dangerous, so he used hand signals to get Dziekanski to step away from his luggage and put his hands on the counter.
"I told him to stop and told him to calm down," Robinson told inquiry Commissioner Thomas Braidwood.
"At that point, he threw up his hands and moved back," the officer said.
"He turned around quickly and I noticed something in his hand....in a clenched fist."
Robinson recalled he saw a couple of staples come out and realized the man was holding a stapler.
The officer said he pulled out his police baton. When Dziekanski stepped foward with the stapler in his hand, Robinson ordered Const. Kwesi Millington to deploy the Taser, he said.
"It didn't have any effect," he recalled of the first Taser shot. "Dziekanski still had the stapler in his hand and he didn't go down."
Robinson said he instructed Millington to deploy the Taser again.
Inquiry counsel Art Vertlieb played a video taken at the airport by a passenger, which showed Dziekanski drop the stapler and fall to the floor after the first Taser shot.
"Everything happened really quick," Robinson said. "Everything happened in a split second."
Millington testified earlier that he fired his Taser on his own, without any instruction.
Robinson said he wasn't aware of Millington's version of events..
Robinson testified he told Millington "Hit him again," when Dziekanski didn't fall the first time.
A video of the incident was played in court, which showed two officers holding Dziekanski down with their knees on his back once the man was on the floor. "Hit him again," Robinson was heard saying on the video.
He testified that may have been his third command.
Robinson recalled making the command because Dziekanski was still struggling, trying to push himself up.
Robinson said it never occurred to him that Dziekanski may have had trouble breathing or was in pain from being Tasered while on the ground.
He testified he only recently learned that the Taser was deployed five times. He thought it was only fired twice.
Robinson recalled Dziekanski later was turning blue.
"He was breathing, so I assumed it was bruising," he told the inquiry.
"Did you personally check Mr. Dziekanski's breathing?" Vertlieb asked.
"He was continuously monitored until EHS arrived," Robinson said.
He noticed Dziekanski went unconscious and seemed to be snoring.
Robinson said he touched Dziekanski to make sure he was breathing and had a pulse.
The first responders who arrived on the scene - members of the Richmond fire department - asked police to remove the handcuffs so they could properly assess the patient, but police refused.
"I was reluctant to take them off, but I didn't refuse," Robinson testified.
"It took four of us to get him handcuffed, so I was reluctant to take them off."
When the ambulance paramedics arrived seconds later, they also asked for the handcuffs to be removed, he said.
"I asked if they could work with them on - I thought he still posed a risk," Robinson recalled.
"They told me they wanted them (handcuffs) off, so I agreed to take them off," he added.
"He was breathing until he was turned over to the ambulance (crew). I took a step back and let them work on him."
By that time, Dziekanski was in cardiac arrest.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
He later told his three officers at the scene that they would have to give statements to investigators with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT), which took place after 5 a.m.
Robinson said in his first IHIT statement that Dziekanski was "swinging the stapler up high...in an attempt to hit us."
The officer testified that he thought Dziekanski was trying to harm police.
He said he never considered whether the man was weary from travelling.
Dziekanski, 40, had left his home in Poland more to come to Canada to live with his mother, who lived in Kamloops.
Robinson, now 38, joined the force in 1996 and was first posted to Chase for seven years, to Merritt for two years, then transferred to Richmond in 2005.
He transferred to the detachment at Vancouver International Airport in April 2005.
Robinson transferred in November 2007 to the Vancouver 2010 security unit.
He was suspended with pay after he was involved in a fatal car accident that killed a 21-year-old motorcyclist, Orion Hutchinson. He has not been charged with the accident, although he had his driver's licence suspended for 90 days after admitting at the scene that he had been drinking. Robinson, who was off-duty, faces charges of impaired driving causing death and exceeding the legal limit.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Monday, March 23, 2009
March 23, 2009