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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lawyer accuses Mounties of "cowboy entrance"

March 24, 2009
Linda Diebel, National Affairs Writer
Toronto Star

VANCOUVER – Four Mounties at the Vancouver airport wearing bulletproof vests and armed with guns, metal batons and, in one case, a Taser, felt threatened by a confused Polish immigrant with a stapler in his hand, the supervising Mountie today told a public inquiry about the death of Robert Dziekanski.

Under tough questioning by the deceased mother's lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj, Cpl. Benjamin "Monty" Robinson appeared unable to show any threatening action against his men on Dziekanski's part while viewing an amateur video of events shown to the court — or that Dziekanski was advancing toward the four Mounties as originally stated.

"There, there's slight movement in the video," insisted Robinson, pointing to what Kosteckyj described as merely a slight swaying.

"I thought he was going to hit me with the stapler," said Robinson.

Dziekanski died on October 14, 2007, around 1:30 a.m. in the international arrivals section of the airport, after receiving five jolts from a Taser administered by Const. Kwesi Millington, some after he was already lying on the ground, writhing and screaming in pain.

"You're assuming he was screaming in pain," said Robinson.

Robinson, whose Taser certification was expired at the time, also testified today his first aid training certification had expired in March, 2002.

Although he said Dziekanski's ears had turned blue, it could have been the result of "bruising." He declined to remove his handcuffs, even after emergency medical crews arrived and asked Robinson, the commanding officer, that it be done.

Kosteckyj, a former RCMP officer, accused Robinson and his squad of three other Mounties of making a "cowboy entrance" and failing to either assess the scene, discuss a course of action or even apply a reasonable standard of first aid by monitoring him properly once he was down.

In yesterday's testimony, Robinson said "there was no plan". But today, he refused to admit his squad acted too quickly. Dziekanski was Tasered a few seconds after all four Mounties arrived in the secure arrivals area of the airport and encountered Dziekanski, who was unable to speak English.

This morning, Robinson contradicted testimony he gave to an internal RCMP investigator shortly after the incident.

"As I said before, I failed to articulate well," said Robinson, of his earlier statement. "I wasn't specific and I didn't articulate well at the time."

Robinson also reiterated he gave the order for Millington to fire the Taser, although Millington earlier said he received no orders from Robinson.

Today, Robinson testified he said, "Kwesi, hit him with it." Asked why he didn't specify Millington should use his Taser, Robinson said there was no time.

The Braidwood Commission inquiry continues.

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