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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mountie accused of 'cooking' story

March 26, 2009
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- Poland's lawyer at the inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death yesterday accused the senior Mountie of cooking his story with those of other three officers to justify their conduct, which included blasting the immigrant with a taser five times in about 30 seconds.

In a flat, calm voice, Corporal Benjamin Robinson denied it.

"I have been telling the truth," said the 38-year-old officer, the last of the four Mounties to testify to the Braidwood inquiry on the details of the events at Vancouver airport on Oct. 14, 2007.

Early that day, the four officers travelled from the RCMP's airport detachment to the international arrivals terminal, responding to a dispatchers' report that a man was throwing furniture. That man was Mr. Dziekanski, acting erratically after a 21-hour journey from Poland to Canada, and being lost in the airport for more than 10 hours. The 40-year-old Polish labourer died of cardiac arrest after being tasered and wrestled into handcuffs by the officers.

Poland's Vancouver-based lawyer Don Rosenbloom said he had no reservations about his allegations that the officers collaborated on their testimony.

"I've said it in the hearing room and I am saying it again. You have these inconsistencies spoken by all four officers and they claim they never spoke to each other and yet these professionally trained observers, who are supposed to accurately record the events of any incident, all make the same mistakes," Mr. Rosenbloom told reporters outside the hearing room.

His concerns included the officers' suggestions that Mr. Dziekanski was agitated, when he was actually calm when approached; that three officers talked about Mr. Dziekanski's supposed defiance in walking away from officers contrary to their wishes; the erroneous suggestion that Mr. Dziekanski was standing after he was tasered.

"This is just beyond the pale. It is unacceptable. There are too many inconsistencies and they are all giving those same erroneous versions of events," Mr. Rosenbloom said.

In his final day on the stand, Cpl. Robinson also said he felt qualified to provide basic first aid to Mr. Dziekanski although his certification had expired by the night of the confrontation. He also denied placing his knee on Mr. Dziekanski's neck as officers struggled to restrain him.

And he acknowledged errors in his initial statements on the case. Earlier this month, the officer's lawyer asked the commission for permission to change his comments in six areas. "I did the best job I could. I admit there are inaccuracies," Cpl. Robinson said yesterday.

During the hearing, Mr. Rosenbloom opened his last round of questions by saying: "You and your fellow officers collaborated to fabricate your story in the expectation that it would justify your conduct the night Mr. Dziekanski died. Do you deny that?"

"I deny that," Cpl. Robinson replied.

He also offered a soft-spoken "I deny that" to Mr. Rosenbloom's suggestion that the officers "were fast at work at the scene cooking up the story."

With a "No, we did not," Cpl. Robinson rejected Mr. Rosenbloom's suggestion the officers misled the members of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. "And lastly, I am going to suggest to you that you have been lying under oath before this commission. Do you deny that?" Mr. Rosenbloom asked.

"I have been telling the truth," Cpl. Robinson said.

Zofia Cisowski, Mr. Dziekanski's mother, said she did not believe Cpl. Robinson, and accused him of being evasive. "He never says any straight answer - yes or no, just round and round," she said.

She said she was thankful for amateur video shot by a bystander that has been dissected during the hearing. "The truth would never [have] come out if we had no video."

Mr. Rosenbloom's cross-examination of Cpl. Robinson ended the officer's three days of testimony.

As lawyers and staff gathered their materials to leave the hearing room, Mr. Rosenbloom made a point of going over to shake Cpl. Robinson's hand. The embattled officer took the lawyer's hand and returned the shake with a small smile. "There are courtesies in my profession," Mr. Rosenbloom later explained. "When a person is off the stand, I treat them with respect."

1 comment:

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