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Friday, May 08, 2009

Police Taser probe launched after Brooks man dies

May 8, 2009
By Stephane Massinon, Calgary Herald

CALGARY - In his final moments, Grant William Prentice ran down a quiet Brooks street, banged on doors and demanded he be let in. And when police tried to arrest him, the 40-year-old Brooks man was Tasered and later died in hospital.

It now falls to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the provincial body that oversees investigations into use of force by police, to piece together Prentice's final hours, why the son of town councillor Bill Prentice, who sits on the Brooks Policing Committee, died and what role the controversial stun gun may have played in his sudden death.

At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Prentice was seen running down Lake Bevan Place in the Alberta city 185 kilometres east of Calgary. His behaviour startled the residents on the quiet residential street.

"Some guy came knocking on my door; he tried to convince my kids to let him in the house. They locked the doors and he went running down the street. He seemed like he was running from something,"said a resident who said she did not want to be identified.

She said she did not recognize Prentice and said he had scratches on his face. Prentice asked the woman's 10-year-old daughter repeatedly to let him in, but the girl locked the door and a neighbour called RCMP, she said.

The resident said she did not witness the Tasering, but saw Prentice being placed in the ambulance.A day later, she's still glad her daughter locked the door.

"It's unfortunate the way it ended, but the police protected my family. That's all I care about," she said.

Prentice's family said they did not wish to make any public statements. The grieving family gathered at Bill's house to console each other after the sudden death.

Prentice's cousin, Shirly Prentice, said he worked in construction, but she was not very close to him.

She was stunned to get the phone call telling her Prentice had died.

"He would give the shirt off his back to help you out," said Shirly.

What is known so far from the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is that two RCMP members arrived to the call and were later joined by two more officers, but Prentice, who was known to police, resisted arrest. He had previously been charged with causing a disturbance in 2001.

"A struggle ensued and one officer attempted to subdue the male with his conducted energy device. At this point, it's unclear whether the device was successfully deployed," said director Clifton Purvis.

"The Taser was deployed once, I don't know if he was struck," added Purvis.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Patrick Webb said the police force was limited in what it could say since ASIRT was leading the investigation.The national police force has said it willco-operate fully with the investigation.

"RCMP regrets the outcome of this tragic incident, and is currently notifying the family of the deceased. The RCMP offers its condolences and support to the family as they deal with their loss."

Mayor Martin Shields said the family, and his council colleague, are hurting. "When a citizen dies suddenly, it's of a great sadness,"said Shields. The town is "feeling shock and dismay," he said.

Shields said the Prentice family has lived in Brooks since the'60s; it is Bill Prentice's first term on council.

This is the third incident involving a Taser that ASIRT has been called in to investigate. On Nov. 2, 2008, Cranbrook resident Gordon Walker Bowe died in police custody in Calgary after a Taser was used, though it may not have made contact with him. Less than a week before that, Trevor Grimolfson, 38, died in Edmonton after he was Tasered twice following a disturbance at a pawnshop.

On Aug. 10, 2006, Jason Doan, 28, of Red Deer was jolted three times by a Taser as RCMP officers tried to subdue him. He died three weeks later in hospital after going into cardiac arrest following the Taser deployments.

Across Canada, more than 25 people have died after they were Tasered.

Webb said he did not know if it is the same model of Taser that was recently found to be malfunctioning in independent tests of the stun guns. AlbertaX-26 model Tasers were recently found to malfunction 12 per cent of the time and the province's solicitor general has ordered tests of all Alberta Tasers.

Shields said the continued use of the stun gun is not a decision for him and his council to make, but one for the RCMP.

An autopsy will be conducted on Prentice in Calgary today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Police have tazered my bf who is epileptic 4 times. They broke his hand,wrist stepping on it when the officer was tazering him. they never let him see an M.D. doc for two months. His gut area is totally scarred, he has been brutalized by these frigging cops and he was INNOCENT! im so grateful he is still alive, he is a Warrior but i am helping him get help he needs.