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Monday, May 04, 2009

Undisclosed notes on Dziekanski probe delay top Mountie's testimony

The discovery of undisclosed notes and email related to the investigation into Robert Dziekanski's death in 2007 delayed a senior RCMP officer's testimony Monday at a public inquiry being held in Vancouver.

Supt. Wayne Rideout, who was subpoenaed to testify at the inquiry into the Polish immigrant's death, surprised the inquiry with notes he has that no one has seen before and suggested he also had other relevant emails about the case. Dziekanski died minutes after an RCMP officer stunned him with a Taser several times.

Rideout, who supervised the RCMP's investigation of the Taser incident at Vancouver airport, was expected to explain on Monday why he decided not to immediately correct false information the Mounties had told the public about the incident.

The inquiry heard last month that in the first two days after Dziekanski died on Oct. 14, 2007, the RCMP's public statements on the incident contained false information about how many officers were involved, how many times Dziekanski was stunned and what state Dziekanski was in when approached by officers.

Cpl. Dale Carr testified last month he went to Rideout seeking to correct the record, but was told to hold off setting the record straight because "everything will be corrected eventually."

Rideout is now expected to testify on Wednesday, barring any more surprises. Lawyers at the inquiry said Monday they needed more time to study the material he provided.

The Mounties were called to Vancouver airport after Robert Dziekanski started acting strangely in the early hours of Oct. 14, 2007. They stunned him with a Taser within seconds of arriving, and he died shortly after. (Paul Pritchard)
Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood ruled Rideout could only address his decisions about what RCMP media spokespeople had told the public following Dziekanski's death — despite a request by the lawyer for the Polish government to expand the scope of questions Rideout can be asked when he returns.

Don Rosenbloom wanted to question Rideout about why the RCMP fought to withhold amateur video of the Taser incident, and why investigators failed to question the four Mounties who were deployed to handle Dziekanski when discrepancies were discovered in their statements.

Dziekanski died on the floor of the airport shortly after being shocked five times by a police Taser. Cpl. Monty Robinson, Const. Gerry Rundel, Const. Bill Bentley and Const. Kwesi Millington had been sent to the international arrivals lounge in response to reports that Dziekanski was throwing furniture and causing a scene.

Braidwood said Monday that questioning how the RCMP investigated Dziekanski's death would open a Pandora's box.

"That topic would know no borders, and there would be no way to draw a line that makes any sense with reference to investigating how the RCMP investigated this matter. I don't think that should be included in my terms of reference," Braidwood said.

Braidwood, a retired B.C. Court of Appeal justice, is overseeing the provincially mandated inquiry. He will make recommendations to prevent similar deaths and he could make findings of misconduct against the officers or anyone else involved.

Dziekanski suffered delirium
Also on Monday, a psychiatrist who reviewed evidence of Dziekanski's behaviour leading up to his death testified he was likely in a state of "agitated delirium" before being hit several times with a Taser stun gun.

But Dr. Lu Shao-Hua testified exactly what caused that delirium remains a mystery. An expert in delirium syndrome as well as addiction medicine, Lu was hired by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Unit, which probed the death.

"There is a high degree of certainty Mr. Dziekanski was in a state of agitated delirium prior to the police incident and his death," Lu concluded in his April 9, 2008, report.

Lu testified Monday that his review took into account witness statements, Dziekanski's autopsy report and a 10-minute video of the incident shot by traveller Paul Pritchard.

"Excited delirium is not a term that we use in a medical sense," said Lu, who also testified a year ago during the first phase of the inquiry looking into the general use of Tasers by law enforcement.

"Delirium is a medical syndrome. It's not a disease in and of itself. Delirium is the symptom of some underlying condition," Lu said.

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