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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

B.C. Attorney General watches Taser inquiry to see if new evidence arises

April 14, 2009
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER, B.C. — RCMP officers who testified at the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport could still face charges after the inquiry but so far there is nothing to suggest that might happen, B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal said Monday.

"It's always the case in any determination where we decide that no charges were warranted that if there was new evidence and that new evidence was appreciably different then in those circumstances charges could be laid," Oppal told The Canadian Press. "But we're talking theory here."

The last of the four officers who confronted Dziekanski at the airport in October 2007 finished his testimony last month.

Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson said Dziekanski was not, as he has been portrayed in the past, the agitated man who withstood the shock from a Taser and swung a stapler at police.

In the hours and days after Dziekanski collapsed and died on the floor of Vancouver's airport, the four RCMP officers involved told investigators he was an aggressive threat to public safety, even after he took the first shock from an RCMP Taser.

The officers said they had to wrestle Dziekanski to the ground - evidence disputed by a witness video of Dziekanski's dying moments.

Robinson told the public inquiry into Dziekanski's death on Wednesday that he made erroneous statements to those homicide investigators.

Dziekanski, a Polish man who didn't speak English, died on the floor of the arrivals terminal. The Taser was used five times, although it's not clear if all of those firings actually connected with the man.

The three other officers have said they gave their best recollections of a fast-paced, stressful event.

Robinson also conceded that Dziekanski didn't swing a stapler, as officers told investigators, and collapsed to the floor on his own after the first shock.

Their initial accounts said he continued standing after the first hit.

All the officers have retracted parts of their statements to homicide investigators when confronted with the bystander's video.

Some of the officers' errors - for instance, that Dziekanski had to be wrestled to the floor - were consistent among them.

When announcing its decision last December, B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch said the bystander's video supported the officers' accounts.

"(The criminal justice branch) said at that time there would be no charges and all I said is that if new evidence emerges there's always a possibility to lay charges, but I didn't specifically say in this case it would happen," said Oppal.

Oppal said he's "not prepared to buy in" that there was a significant change in evidence and there were false statements made.

"I said if there were false statements made then that's something the commissioner would consider. But I'm not going to second-guess anybody at this stage."

A Crown spokesman in B.C. said last month that it would be up to homicide investigators to decide whether to re-open the case.

The RCMP has said the decision will have to wait until after the inquiry.

Oppal emphasized that "there is an inquiry going on and we're not about to jump into the middle of the inquiry."

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