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Monday, March 23, 2009

Mountie who ordered airport Tasering wasn't certified

March 23, 2009
Linda Diebel, National Affairs Writer
Toronto Star

VANCOUVER–The supervising Mountie on the morning Robert Dziekanski was Tasered and died at Vancouver's airport didn't have up-to-date training on Taser use.

Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson told the Braidwood inquiry this morning his Taser training had expired in March 2006 – 19 months before Dziekanski, 41, received five Taser jolts by an RCMP constable under Robinson's command. The Polish immigrant died at the scene.

Robinson told the inquiry he gave the command to Const. Kwesi Millington to deploy the Taser. Robinson's testimony contradicts Millington's own evidence to the inquiry that he fired on his own.

Robinson gave no explanation for the expiry of his certification, but noted he was bought up to date a month after Dziekanski's death. His lack of current training meant "you don't carry one."

However, he supervised a team of three other Mounties from the airport detachment who arrived at about 1 a.m., after receiving a call that an "intoxicated person was throwing luggage" at the terminal. He was incorrectly described as non-white.

A video shot by amateur Paul Pritchard shows the order to Taser Dziekanski was given within 30 seconds of the Mounties arriving at the secure international arrivals section of the airport. The video, portions of which were shown several times today, showed Dziekanski writhing on the ground after the first shot.

Robinson expressed concern the Polish immigrant – who the officers thought was Russian – was lunging for his luggage. He also noticed Dziekanski was carrying a stapler.

Robinson, 38, said he wasn't aware the first firing lasted six seconds.

"At that point, I gave the command to deploy again . . . because it didn't have (an) instant effect," said Robinson, testifying Dziekanski hadn't fallen.

The inquiry yesterday played a section of Pritchard's video to show Dzieskanski was on his way to the ground within five seconds of the first Tasering and the full shot lasted about six seconds.

Under questioning from commission lawyer Art Vertlieb, Robinson insisted he didn't think Dziekanski was on the ground when he gave a second command very quickly after the first command to use the weapon.

"I used the words to the effect, 'Hit him again,'" he said.

Later, he admitted he might have given another command to, "Hit him again," and Dzieskanski might have been on the ground by that time.

Throughout the video, Dziekanski can be heard moaning and crying out.

Robinson testified he had tried to calm Dziekanski. Earlier, he said, he heard another Mountie ask Dzieskanski, "How ya doing, bud? How ya doing, sir?"

Vertlieb showed sections of the Pritchard video several times, asking Robinson to indicate the exact point where he is shown trying to calm Dzieskansi and where the Polish man is shown stepping forward, or lunging for his luggage. However, it couldn't be found.

Robinson replied it was impossible to see because of the angle and the distortion created when Pritchard shot through glass into the arrivals lounge.

Earlier testimony from Millington showed Dziekanski was Tasered five times.

The inquiry has taken place in two parts, the first on the use of the Taser and the second on how Dziekanski died. Commissioner Thomas Braidwood has not yet released his report on the already-completed first part.

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