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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Few answers in son's death

July 23, 2009
Winnipeg Free Press
By: Gabrielle Giroday

In death, his name made national headlines.

However, one year later, Michael Langan's mother Sharon Shymko said she's made no progress in finding out what happened to her teenage son after he was Tasered by police and died.

Shymko is awaiting the results of an autopsy into Langan's death.

The report hasn't been completed yet by the province's Chief Medical Examiner's office, but Shymko is eager to review the report that she hopes will explain how her son died.

Shymko also hopes the results will lead to stun guns being banned in Canada, where only police are allowed to carry the weapons.

"I wish they would ban those Tasers completely," she said.

Wednesday, Shymko and her family gathered around a small plot at Brookside Cemetery to poke small plastic flowers around a black granite grave recently installed there. The crowd included Michael's father, Brian Minchin, who contributed about $600 towards the gravestone that he saved up from disability cheques while doing time in jail last fall and this spring.

Minchin called his life after Langan's death a "mess," but said he's proud his son's grave finally has a marker, which bears his parents' names.

Shymko said: "I feel lonely. I wish he was here. I could understand if he had cancer, or sickness and he died," she said. But he didn't. On July 22, 2008, trouble began for Langan after he allegedly smashed a car window and tried to steal an item from inside the vehicle parked at 1147 Notre Dame Ave. Friends said he often scrounged for cigarette butts in the core area.

Police said he then brandished a knife towards two officers who encountered him in the back lane of 871 William Ave.

After officers told Langan repeatedly to drop the weapon, police said they stunned him because he was a threat to officer and public safety.

Shymko said Langan had no known medical ailment. He was rushed to hospital in critical condition and was declared dead.

Police did not say how many times they shocked Langan. Shymko said she has not been in contact with police since shortly after her son died.

Manitoba M├ętis Federation president David Chartrand called the death an incident of racial profiling last year.

"I believe (police) overreacted so quickly," Shymko said. "When I go bed and when I wake up, I'm just thinking about him every day."

She said she found out about the death from the news but initially dismissed the possibility that it was her son.

"Then when (the police) came over... all they had to mention was Taser, and I just started crying... Right away I knew it was Michael, the one that was Tasered that I heard on the news," Shymko said.

The Winnipeg Police Service confirms that an internal investigation into the death is continuing, but declined an interview.

There will be a mandatory inquest into Langan's death because it is an officer-involved fatality.

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