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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Southern Alberta man dies after RCMP use Taser

May 7, 2009
CBC News

A Southern Alberta man is dead after an RCMP officer used a stun gun to subdue him, but investigators said it's "unclear whether the device was successfully deployed."

Grant William Prentice, 40, of the small city of Brooks, southeast of Calgary, died Wednesday night in the local hospital after a police officer stunned him with a Taser, a gun designed to incapacitate people with an electric shock.

The incident happened in a residential cul-de-sac called Lake Bevan Place.

RCMP gave few details, instead referring questions to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), which looks into deaths and serious complaints in the province involving police officers.

In a news release issued Thursday afternoon, ASIRT said police were called to the cul-de-sac at about 7:30 p.m. MT Wednesday.

"The male was approaching residents and asking for help and attempted to forcibly enter one home," the release said. Neighbours phoned police, who arrived with an ambulance, because Prentice was said to be injured.

"Two officers arrived at the scene and tried to take the man into custody. 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. Two more RCMP officers arrived and the man was eventually handcuffed," the release said.

An ambulance crew assessed Prentice and took him to the Brooks hospital, where he died at 8:30 p.m.

ASIRT said Prentice was "known" to police. According to court records, Prentice was charged with causing a disturbance in 2001 and fined.

'RCMP regrets the outcome'

Mayor Martin Shields said he knew Prentice, who was born and raised in Brooks. Shields told CBC News he spoke to the man's parents Thursday morning, and they are devastated.

A neighbour, who wouldn't give his name, told CBC News he saw a disoriented, unarmed man believed to be in his thirties stumbling across the cul-de-sac. The neighbour took his daughter inside and didn't see the arrest.

Besides ASIRT, RCMP also notified the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP of the incident.

"The RCMP regrets the outcome of this tragic incident.... RCMP offers its condolences and support to the family as they deal with their loss," the force said in a statement. "Although the RCMP is not subject to ASIRT's jurisdiction over police officers in Alberta, it has and will continue to be a strong supporter of the ASIRT model."

An autopsy will be performed Friday in Calgary.

During question period in the Alberta legislature Thursday, Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason called on the government to ban Taser use because believes the devices are not safe and are being improperly used by police.

But Alberta's solicitor general, Fred Lindsay, defended the stun gun's effectiveness, saying he has not heard a public outcry against the devices.

"I don't get a lot of comments. You certainly hear the concerns, but then when the evidence comes out — and there's really no evidence to support the fact that these instruments have caused any deaths in Canada — then they're a tool that protects the public, and we hear numerous times about how they save lives," he said.

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