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Friday, July 17, 2009

Taser warning would have eliminated element of surprise in Hyde case: officer

July 17, 2009
The Canadian Press

HALIFAX, N.S. — A special constable who Tasered a mentally ill man who later died in custody says he would not always issue a warning when using the weapon because it would take away the element of surprise.

In testimony Friday at an inquiry into the death of Howard Hyde, Greg McCormick said it's also his experience that warning someone who is upset that they could be zapped could further anger them.

Given the speed with which things were happening early in the morning of Nov. 21, 2007, McCormick said he didn't have time to warn Hyde he was going to use the Taser.

"It's not appropriate because of something that we call the surprise factor, telling him specifically that it was going to be done would defeat what I was trying to do," he said.

Hyde, 45, who had schizophrenia and was off his medication, was Tasered in the booking area of Halifax police headquarters after he was arrested on a domestic assault complaint.

He died at a local correctional facility following a struggle with guards, 30 hours after he was Tasered repeatedly at the police station.

A scuffle broke out in the fingerprint room and booking area some time after McCormick approached Hyde with a cutting tool to remove a drawstring from his shorts.

The struggle ended up behind a desk in the booking area, where McCormick said there was no room to control Hyde's legs and roll him over onto his stomach to handcuff him.

There was also an exposed drawer in the area that had items in it that could be used as a weapon, including a mallet, a large butcher knife and scissors.

"I felt at that point he would do anything he needed to do to escape, so if harming us was part of that, I would say that yes, he would have done that," he said.

McCormick told the RCMP he felt he was under attack in an interview in the days after Hyde's death, something he didn't write in his notes on the incident.

He told the inquiry that Hyde pushed past him and Const. Jonathan Edwards and was running at another officer in the booking area.

"I would say that would be attacking, in a sense," he said.

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