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Friday, May 08, 2009

Alberta NDP wants province to ban stun guns after man dies

May 8, 2009

EDMONTON — The Alberta NDP wants the province to ban stun guns after a 40-year-old man died earlier this week shortly after being tasered by an RCMP officer in southeastern Alberta.

"Enough is enough, it's time for a ban on tasers," NDP Leader Brian Mason said yesterday. He said at least five people have died in the province after being tasered by police in recent years, and that officers are using the controversial weapon inappropriately.

The most recent death, which occurred on Wednesday, is being probed by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), an independent provincial body that investigates police actions to determine whether criminal charges or other sanctions are warranted.

ASIRT executive director Clifton Purvis said it's still unclear whether the stun gun was even "successfully deployed."

The RCMP received a call around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday that Grant William Prentice was behaving erratically in a residential area in Brooks, Alta. An hour later, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital in the city 185 kilometres southeast of Calgary.

Mr. Purvis's organization is sorting out what happened during those critical 60 minutes, including interviewing civilian witnesses. According to a statement released by ASIRT, paramedics responded to the initial police call with two Mounties because Mr. Prentice appeared to be injured.

The 40-year-old man, who according to ASIRT was previously known to police, had been approaching residents asking for help and attempted to forcibly enter at least one house.

When the officers arrived at the scene, a struggle ensued with Mr. Prentice and one officer attempted to subdue him with a taser.

Officers were eventually able to handcuff him. However, Mr. Prentice was then rushed to the Brooks hospital after being assessed by the paramedics who were already on scene.

An autopsy is expected to be conducted today in Calgary.

Alberta Solicitor-General Fred Lindsay said a taser ban isn't necessary and accused Mr. Mason of spreading "innuendo and misinformation."

Police in the province have used the weapon at least 2,500 times in the past five years, according to Mr. Lindsay. He said there is no evidence, including medical reports, that any of those "incidents have resulted in the death of anyone."

Last month, Alberta mothballed dozens of tasers used by municipal police forces after tests showed the weapons weren't working properly. The government ordered the tests after concerns arose that older taser models were sending shocks that were too powerful.

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