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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mentally ill man didn't utter threats before he was Tasered: officer

July 16, 2009
The Canadian Press

HALIFAX, N.S. — The special constable who zapped a mentally ill man with a Taser says Howard Hyde did not utter any threats to him but he decided to use the weapon because officers couldn't control him during a struggle.

Special Const. Greg McCormick - who was working as a booking officer on Nov. 21, 2007 - told an inquiry Thursday that Hyde appeared scared when he was approached with a tool to cut a drawstring from his shorts at Halifax police headquarters.

Hyde backed up and asked what the police were doing when he was approached with the tool in the booking area.

McCormick said Hyde couldn't get the drawstring out of his shorts because it was knotted at the ends, so they were going to use the tool, which has a 10-centimetre, curved serrated blade on it.

McCormick said the blade on the tool was closed and he was going to use a second, shorter cutting edge to cut the string.

"He seemed scared," he said. "The look on his face, to me it was the look of scared. At first he backed up asking what we were doing and we reassured him we were only cutting off the lace."

After backing up, McCormick said Hyde came toward the officers and pushed past him and Const. Jonathan Edwards. The special constable said he doesn't remember whether he had his cutting tool out at that point.

Video surveillance shows Hyde flailing as two other officers try to handcuff him after they spilled from the booking area and ended up on the floor behind a desk. It was then that McCormick reached for the Taser.

McCormick said near where Hyde was struggling with police was an exposed drawer with tools in it, including knives.

Hyde was zapped with the Taser repeatedly by McCormick before officers got control of him in a nearby hallway after he jumped over a desk and fled.

As they gained control of Hyde, McCormick said he couldn't find a pulse on him so officers began CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

When he regained consciousness, Hyde expressed his fear and McCormick said he tried to reassure him that he was OK.

"I felt breath and then I looked at Mr. Hyde's face, and at that point it was unlike anything I had ever seen, it was like his colour came right back, it's almost like he woke up, it was like a big breath," he said.

"We're trained to reassure someone who has just been through something like that, so I am telling him everything is fine and that he'll be fine."

"And all that I can remember him saying to me specifically is that he was scared."

The 45-year-old Hyde - who had schizophrenia - died at a correctional facility in Dartmouth after a struggle with guards, 30 hours after he was Tasered. Police arrested Hyde after his common-law spouse alleged he had assaulted her at their apartment in Dartmouth.

The fatality inquiry is examining the circumstances surrounding Hyde's death.

Police officials have previously acknowledged their testimony of what happened that night conflicts with statements they made to the RCMP in the days after Hyde was Tasered.

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