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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Officer mistaken about taser warning, inquiry hears

July 14, 2009
OLIVER MOORE, Globe and Mail

The police officer who arrested Howard Hyde testified Tuesday at a fatality inquiry that he had been mistaken when he said the mentally ill man was warned before being tasered.

Halifax Regional Police Constable Jonathan Edwards gave a statement to the RCMP on 25-November, 2007, three days after Mr. Hyde died in custody in a Dartmouth jail.

Inquiry into the death of Howard Hyde

In that statement, he described the booking room fracas that involved Mr. Hyde being tasered repeatedly by another officer and ended with the 45-year-old stopping breathing and having to be revived in a hallway.

Prompted by Kevin MacDonald, the lawyer for Mr. Hyde's sister and her husband, Constable Edwards acknowledged the warning mentioned in his statement was not reflected in surveillance video from the scene.

“I watched the video just before giving the statement. I don't know why I would have said that,” the officer said.

Mr. MacDonald suggested that Constable Edwards had been trying to establish a justification for the tasering, prompting an objection from a lawyer for the local police.

“The proposition is scandalous,” said Sandra MacPherson-Duncan. “There's no suggestion that this interview [with the RCMP] was probing justification for use of force.”

Provincial Court Judge Anne Derrick, who is presiding over the inquiry, allowed the line of questions to continue.

Asked again, Constable Edwards noted that the officers didn't have to give a warning and that he didn't have to justify his actions to the RCMP.

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