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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dead man's mom asks Taser inquiry to find truth

May 26, 2009
By Cheryl Chan, Vancouver Province

The mother of a Polish immigrant who was Tasered at the Vancouver International Airport said she hopes an inquiry will uncover the truth about his death.

Zofia Cisowski, whose son Robert Dziekanski, 40, died in October 2007 after being hit five times with a Taser by an RCMP officer, said on the last day of testimony that she is "expecting to know the truth."

"I'm waiting on the Braidwood commission . . . to give me (the) chance to know the truth," Cisowski said outside the courtroom.

The second phase of the inquiry, headed by retired judge Thomas Braidwood, heard testimony from more than 80 witnesses over four months.

Notably, the inquiry heard testimony from the four RCMP officers involved in Dziekanski's Tasering, including Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson — who was the officer in charge at the time, and Const. Kwesi Millington — the Mountie who fired the five Taser shots.

The inquiry also repeatedly watched a bystander-shot video of the Tasering and Dziekanski's death on the airport floor, which contradicted testimony given by the RCMP officers and released publicly by the force after the spokesmen had watched the video.

On the last day of testimony, the inquiry heard from Duane MacInnis, an engineer and accident reconstruction specialist, who disputed another expert's findings that Dziekanski advanced toward the officers just before he was shocked with a Taser.

"There is no technical support for those findings," MacInnis said Tuesday.

On Monday, forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks said Dziekanski appeared to take three distinct steps toward the Mounties.

He confirmed his observation by measuring the pixels of Dziekanski's jacket in two frames taken from a three-minute video clip.

The pixel length decreased, said Fredericks, who concluded Dziekanski must have moved closer to the officers and further away from the camera.

MacInnis disagreed, saying that without knowing the height of the camera and without a second point of reference on Dziekanski's jacket aside from his collar, no such conclusion can be reached.

"The mathematics just aren't there," he said. "It's impossible."

MacInnis' statement was buttressed by the testimony of photogrammetrist Mark Hird-Rutter Monday that Fredericks' methodology was flawed.

Dziekanski was Tasered after he was stranded in the airport for nine hours and began throwing furniture.

He was restrained and handcuffed and died on the airport floor.

Don Rosenbloom, the Polish government's lawyer, said he is still troubled by the lingering question of why outside police investigators did not ask the four RCMP officers to reconcile their previous statements with the video footage.

"The Criminal Justice Branch, in reviewing this matter in deciding not to lay charges, did not play with a full pack of cards," he said.

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