Mar 03, 2009
WESTERN CANADA BUREAU CHIEF
VANCOUVER – The first blast didn't appear to immediately fell the disoriented Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.
So RCMP Const. Kwesi Millington fired his Taser at the distraught man again.
As Dziekanski writhed and screamed on the floor at Vancouver International Airport, a superior ordered Millington to fire his Taser again.
When he squeezed the trigger a third time, it didn't sound right, so the constable fired a fourth time.
He doesn't remember a fifth blast, but others do.
Millington took the stand at a public inquiry here yesterday, providing the most meticulous chronicling of the events of Oct. 14, 2007, when the distraught and confused Dziekanski died.
Millington, who had been on the force just over two years at the time, testified he used the weapon without issuing a prior warning as he had been trained to do because Dziekanski had picked up a stapler and there was no time.
He acknowledged he had been advised during training not to use multiple stuns.
"It was a fast-moving situation and a lot of things happened in those few seconds," Millington testified.
Millington, the third of the four officers involved in the incident to testify, was the only one carrying a Taser.
He said he and his colleagues did not speak to each other immediately before the encounter with Dziekanski, 40, and he decided to use the weapon without telling the other officers.
The first shot was fired within 30 seconds of police arriving and encountering non-English speaking Dziekanski, who was lost at the airport and exhausted after a long flight from Poland.
Millington, 32, said he tried to make a gesture indicating he wanted to see Dziekanski's identification and passport, but when the Polish man threw up his hands, he interpreted that as defiance.
Millington said he fired the Taser for the first time as Dziekanski turned to pick up a stapler.
"From my training, the effects of the Taser being fired are that the person (who it's) being applied against is supposed to fall immediately and it's supposed to immobilize them," said Millington. "It didn't have that effect on Mr. Dziekanski so I fired again."
As the other officers struggled to handcuff Dziekanski, who was screaming and writhing – which Millington said indicated resistance but admitted could also have been caused by extreme pain – he said he was told to fire a third time by Cpl. Monty Robinson, the senior officer.
The clacking sound made by the weapon convinced him that the electrical current wasn't working properly, Millington said, and he fired a fourth time.
According to earlier expert testimony at the inquiry, which began Jan. 19, Millington fired five times, discharging electrical currents for as long as 31 seconds in total. But Millington said he could recall firing only four times.
Under questioning by his lawyer Ravi Hira, Millington said he had been trained that "silence is golden."
"If you can't hear anything that means the current is complete and it's actually travelling and the CEW (conducted energy weapon) is working properly," said Millington.
"If you hear a loud arc, which is what I refer to as clacking, that means there's a bad connection."
That noise indicated, said Millington, that the 50,000 volts of electricity was not reaching the target.
He aimed the fourth shot at Dziekanski's shoulder in a bid to achieve "pain compliance," a training manoeuvre that localizes the pain to force the target to comply with the officers' wishes – in this case, to handcuff him.
Commission counsel Art Vertlieb questioned how four officers wearing body armour, carrying handguns and armed with pepper spray and collapsible batons could be frightened of Dziekanski.
Millington stood up at one point during his testimony to demonstrate how the stapler had been held by Dziekanski.
He held the stapler at shoulder height with one hand, his other a clenched fist.
Members of the public laughed at the sight and retired judge Thomas Braidwood had to request order.
Millington admitted he made numerous errors in the statement he made within hours of the incident and in subsequent statements to RCMP investigators.
In those statements, Millington said he believed Dziekanski came at the officers, screaming, while holding the stapler and that he shot him a second time after the first had no effect.
But video showed Dziekanski did not come at the officers with the stapler and that he had fallen on the ground, his feet up, when Millington fired the second shot.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Mar 03, 2009