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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Media cops told to testify

April 15, 2009
By Suzanne Fournier, The Province

Commissioner Tom Braidwood has ruled that two RCMP media-relations officers who have spoken out publicly about the death of Robert Dziekanski must testify under oath at the Taser inquiry.

Helen Roberts, lawyer for the government of Canada and the RCMP, argued yesterday that Cpl. Dale Carr of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Unit (IHIT) and RCMP spokesman Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre should not appear as witnesses before the inquiry, which is looking into Taser use and the Oct. 14, 2007, death of Dziekanski.

IHIT conducted the investigation of the four RCMP officers involved in the Tasering and restraint of the Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport.

Lemaitre made several erroneous statements about the incident to media.

Both officers are slated to testify at the inquiry later this week or early next week.

"Neither Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre or Cpl. Dale Carr were witnesses to what happened to Mr. Dziekanski. They have no first-hand knowledge of the events leading to Mr. Dziekanski's death," argued Roberts.

But Braidwood noted that he is faced with a stark conflict between the RCMP version of events and the objective evidence of a video shot by a bystander.

"We have on the one hand the video itself . . . and we have the officers' recollections and various statements by the officers," said Braidwood.

Outside the inquiry, Braidwood's ruling was hailed by lawyers for the government of Poland and Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, who is planning to place flowers today, on what would have been her son's 41st birthday, at the Vancouver airport's international arrivals area, where her son died.

"The misinformation from the RCMP began in the hours immediately following this incident and still continues," said Don Rosenbloom, who is acting for the Polish government.

Rosenbloom said there is "enormous public mistrust" due to the wide gap between video evidence and RCMP statements about Dziekanski's death.

Walter Kosteckyj, Cisowski's lawyer, asked: "Why did IHIT not confront the RCMP officers they interviewed with the conflicts between their statements and the video?"

"We must hear directly from Carr and Lemaitre."

The four officers involved recanted key parts of statements they gave to IHIT after Dziekanski's death.

The Criminal Justice Branch has ruled that none of the four officers will face criminal charges in Dziekanski's death, but the branch could reopen the case.

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