March 4, 2009
The Standard, St. Catharine's
By KARENA WALTER
Michael Parsons says he thought he was going to die on the side of a road at the hands of police as he pleaded for mercy.
The burning shocks he claims he felt from being repeatedly hit with Tasers by a group of Niagara Regional Police officers made his body convulse and jump. "I felt this sharp, fiery pain," he testified Tuesday in his civil trial against the NRP and five officers.
"I was kind of yelling and screaming, 'Please stop. I won't say anything.' "
Parsons, 30, of St. Catharines, is suing for negligence, false arrest, assault, malicious prosecution and breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The $50,000 civil suit got underway in Superior Court in Welland Tuesday against the service and officers Michael Woodfine, Dino Cirillo, Todd Priddle, James Tallevi and Darrin Forbes.
Parsons, the first person to be Tasered by an NRP officer, testified the whole incident started because he yelled "Hey Baby" at Priddle on Dec. 18, 2003.
He said he ran into Priddle a month or two before at the Red Hot Chili Pepper in St. Catharines, when a woman in the bar called Parsons "Baby" and Priddle pulled her away.
On the day of the alleged assault, Parsons was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his fiancee, Terri Ryckman, when they saw four police cars at the side of Lundy's Lane in Niagara Falls.
Parsons testified he recognized one of the officers as Priddle and "made a poor decision" when he yelled "Hey Baby" out the window. A short time later, the vehicle was pulled over, he told his lawyer Margaret Hoy.
As Ryckman spoke with Woodfine, Parsons said another officer knocked on his passenger- side window. He said he rolled it down halfway and was told he was under arrest. Parsons said he asked, "What for?" but police wouldn't tell him.
He opened his flip cellphone to call his lawyer, something he said was common. "I'm pulled over a lot and usually it's for nothing," he said. "I also fear for my safety because of constant harassment by Niagara Regional Police."
But Parsons testified as he dialed the number, Tallevi reached in the car and grabbed the phone out of his hand. He said he saw an officer break the phone into two pieces.
Within 15 seconds, Parsons said his passenger door swung open and he was pulled out of the vehicle and onto the ground. He testified he was held from behind by Tallevi with a knee in his back and an arm around his throat, squeezing the air out of him.
Parsons said he tried to yell and that's when he started feeling the shocks.
"My body would convulse and jump with the shock over," he said.
Parsons said he felt shocks on his legs and throat. He said it felt like there were two points of contact and he believes more than one officer may have been Tasering him.
He testified officers rolled him onto his stomach and repeatedly Tasered him on his buttocks and on the handcuffs, which conducted electricity around his wrists. He said he was also Tasered on his scrotum and back.
He estimated he was shocked 10 to 15 times.
"I kept feeling the air go from me, from my throat and my breath," he said. "It just burns, it's excruciating."
Parsons said he was put in a police car and was yelling and kicking to get his fiancee's attention so she would call his lawyer. He claims an officer told him to stop or he would be Tasered again.
It wasn't until he was at the police station that he was told he was being charged with assaulting police and resisting arrest, he testified.
The charges were later withdrawn by the Crown.
"I was hysterical. I was crying. I couldn't believe what was happening. My breath was getting shorter and shorter," Parsons testified, saying he felt his throat closing.
His lawyer, Brenda Sandulak, spoke with police and had Parsons taken to Greater Niagara General Hospital.
Sandulak testified she'd never heard Parsons, a client since the early 1990s, so emotional. "He was crying a lot," she said.
"He kept repeating, police were trying to kill him, police were trying to kill him. It wasn't a usual reaction I get from a client."
Parsons testified he suffered Taser burns on his scrotum, legs, hips, neck, back, buttocks and wrist. He said he had bruising and swelling of the throat, as well as bumps on his head and bruising to his spinal cord and back.
"I was in shock. I was in terror. After it happened, I feared for my life," Parsons said. "I feel that I could have died that day on the side of the road."
Parsons said he saw how much authority police officers have on their own.
"I'm afraid now just as much as I was then."
He denied he swore at police or called them a derogatory term.
Parsons told NRP lawyer Terry Marshall under cross-examination that he doesn't know which officer Tasered him.
Parsons also didn't agree with some of the findings of a doctor's report, which described him as "a little shaken up" and without "serious injury."
Marshall is expected to call witnesses for the NRP today.
The trial was originally scheduled to last 10 days, but may wrap up this week.
At the time of the December 2003 arrest, Parsons was the owner of the Merritt Bar and Grill, which he operated with his mother.
He also worked for a construction company for about seven years. He moved to British Columbia 2 1 /2 years ago to attend university and came back to St. Catharines a month ago.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
March 4, 2009