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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alberta Taser probe reaches no findings

May 14, 2009
By Gwendolyn Richards, Calgary Herald

The judge presiding over a fatality inquiry into the death of a Red Deer man who was Tasered by Mounties has made no recommendations, saying the manner of death is inconclusive.

The lack of recommendations has frustrated the family of Jason Wayne Doan, 28. They were hoping the judge would at least make directions on officer training when it comes to Taser use.

"We were disappointed there were no recommendations for further training and procedures,"said Doan's aunt, Lorraine Macleod.

During testimony in December, the inquiry heard Doan was under stress -- unemployed and having custody issues over his three-year-old daughter--leading up to the incident on Aug. 10, 2006.

He was acting in a bizarre manner that day, shouting profanities and damaging vehicles, prompting people to make complaints to the RCMP.

Doan was punched, kicked and struck with a baton before he was Tasered three times by police officers.

In her report released Wednesday, provincial court Judge Monica Bast said that after Doan was handcuffed, he went into cardiac arrest. A doctor testified they were able to get a heartbeat again, but Doan never showed any neurological response. He died in hospital three weeks later.

Bast wrote that the question of what caused the cardiac arrest could not be concluded, but said the most likely cause was excited delirium.

Excited delirium is not a recognized medical diagnosis, but a condition or state a person is found in, an expert testified during the hearing.

Dr. Christine Hall testified underlying causes can include drugs, psychiatric illnesses or alcohol withdrawal.

Bast said "no underlying medical diagnosis could be identified as being the actual trigger that put Doan into a state of excited delirium."

But, because it could not be concluded Doan's death was a result of excited delirium, Bast said she could not make any recommendations.

Alberta's Civil Liberties Association president Stephen Jenuth blasted the judge's decision not to offer any directions, calling it a wasted opportunity.

Having gone to the trouble to hold the inquiry, Jenuth said even if there is a hint a Taser is related to the death, that is enough to lead to recommendations.

"If there's a possibility a Taser caused a death, then there ought to be recommendations to deal with it," he said.

Alberta Justice spokesman David Dear said it is open to each judge whether to make recommendations or not, but it is easy to see why a judge would be reluctant to when the cause of death is not clear.

"When the goal is to prevent a similar event, they may find it difficult (to make recommendations) when it is not clear what caused the event in the first place," he said.

Doan's family had hoped for recommendations around training, saying the Taser was deployed before the situation had been assessed.

"We feel that training would have prevented this from happening," Macleod said. "In the old days, the RCMP used their skills to talk to people who were upset or emotion-ally out of control. We feel the Taser was used too quickly."

But they also wanted the public to know that Doan was not on drugs, had not been drinking and was not "crazy."

"We do know who Jason was," Macleod said.

"We would just like the world to know Jason was not the person the RCMP tried to portray."

The family has filed a wrongful-death suit against a number of individuals and organizations.

Their claim has not been proven in court.

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