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Friday, May 01, 2009

Family of Tasered immigrant sues Quebec public prosecutor

May 1, 2009
By Marianne White, Canwest News Service

QUEBEC - The family of an Italian immigrant who died in police custody in Quebec City is seeking $772,000 in damages from the local administration and the province's public prosecutor who represent police and correctional officers.

The lawsuit filed Friday claims that the defendants are ``directly'' responsible for the death of Claudio Castagnetta, 32, who was arrested for public disorder on Sept. 18, 2007.

The Quebec City police had to use a stun gun on him.

The family alleges in the lawsuit that police and correctional officers were negligent and turned a blind eye on Castagnetta instead of providing him with proper medical care.

``The succession of events demonstrates shocking negligence,'' the lawsuit states, adding that the officers treated Castagnetta ``cruelly and inhumanely.''

Castagnetta was confused and disoriented when he was apprehended by police. The lawsuit charges his arrest and the use of the Taser were ``abusive'' and ``totally inappropriate'' because he showed many signs of excited delirium, according to a police report. In such a situation, officers are required to take the person straight to a hospital.

``Furthermore, police officers humiliated him and left him naked in his cell, '' the document states.

Castagnetta spent the night in jail singing, screaming and banging his head on the walls. The next morning he told police officers he suffered from bipolar disorder and that he might have taken speed.

In spite of that, he was taken to the courthouse and not to a hospital.

``The police officers were the first to intervene and they could have saved his life,'' the lawsuit says.

During his transport back to jail from the courthouse later that day, Castagnetta started to bang his head against the inside of the bus. Correctional officers stopped the bus and put a helmet on Castagnetta's head to prevent injuries. But he continued to bang his head until they reached the prison where he was found to be unconscious.

The lawsuit claims an hour and a half went by before he was taken to hospital.

``All of that shows a total contempt for his dignity, his life and his security,'' the lawsuit claims.

The coroner concluded Castagnetta died of swelling of the brain the next day. He refused to blame anyone for the death, but stressed the man did not receive proper medical care and his death could have been avoided if he had.

The city and the province's public prosecutor declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday afternoon.

A Quebec Crown prosecutor ruled last summer no criminal charges would be laid in the case.

The family dropped a criminal lawsuit against the police force because of insufficient evidence.

This lawsuit is the latest in a series of procedures against police forces or authorities in Canada over the use of Taser. At least five lawsuits have been launched since 2008.

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