October 5, 2009
Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER - The death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport was caused by excessive use of force by the RCMP and a failure of the system to guide the visitor, the Braidwood inquiry was told Monday.
In his final submission, lawyer Walter Kosteckyj, representing Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, urged the inquiry commissioner, Thomas Braidwood, to recommend that the RCMP's use-of-force training model to be scrapped.
He also urged the commissioner to recommend that a provincial police force be created to replace the use of the RCMP in B.C.
"There has to be a recommendation that a provincial police force must be put in place," Kosteckyj said.
He added the RCMP "by not being answerable to the (provincial) legislature is undemocratic."
The commissioner has the authority to find fault and make recommendations to the provincial government in his report.
Dziekanski, 40, died at about 1:30 a.m. Oct. 14, 2007 at Vancouver International Airport after he was Tasered five times and restrained by four Mounties..
The weary traveller had arrived at the airport about 10 hours earlier after a long flight from Poland.
He had come to Canada to live with his mother and start a new life.
His mother had told her son to stay in the baggage carousel area and she would meet him there.
She didn't realize it, but the international arrivals baggage carousel was in a secure area, not accessible to people waiting for loved ones in the greeting lounge.
Dziekanski, who spoke no English, stayed in the secure area for about eight hours and never connected with his mother, who eventually returned home to Kamloops after being told her son could not be found.
Part of the systemic failure, Kosteckyj said, was the failure to get Dziekanski an interpreter.
"We were told how easy it was to get translation services," the lawyer said.
"An interpreter should have assisted Dziekanski."
A Canada Border Services Agency employee noticed Dziekanski walking around the customs area - about eight hours after he was initially processed - and led him to the exit to the public area.
Dziekanski, appearing exhausted and unable to find his mother, became frustrated and started throwing around furniture and threw a computer on the floor, prompting a 911 call to police.
"He had been traveling in excess of 30 hours and had no idea where his family was," Kosteckyj said.
He added that a citizen started yelling at Dziekanski, who got mad and threw things around.
Four officers arrived and gave Dziekanski conflicting orders - one told him to produce his papers, but when he tried to get his passport from his luggage, another officer told him not to go into his baggage and ordered the man to stand over by a counter.
Dziekanski threw up his arms and grabbed a stapler, which the police took as a threatening move.
"Mr. Dziekanski was having an emotional crisis and these police officers should have been able to see that," Kosteckyj said.
He added police should have tried to defuse and resolve the situation without using force.
Just before one of the officers deployed his stun gun, Dziekanski said in Polish: "Have you lost your mind?"
They were his final words.
Dziekanski fell down and began writhing on the floor when he was first Tasered for five seconds.
Police initially thought Dziekanski was resisting arrest, but the inquiry was told that Const. Kwesi Millington, the officer with the Taser, kept pulling the trigger four more times, causing Dziekanski's muscles to contract.
"I submit to you that the third, fourth and fifth deployments were gratuitous and unnecessary," Kosteckyj said.
He added that once police had handcuffed Dziekanski's hands behind his back, police failed to properly care for the man while in custody.
One officer testified Dziekanski turned blue and his breathing sounded like he was snoring.
But the officer who testified he was monitoring Dziekanski's breathing and pulse said he didn't see the man turn blue.
"How is it possible to be monitoring someone turning blue and not notice it?" Kosteckyj asked.
He estimated Dziekanski was unconscious for about six minutes before the ambulance arrived.
Firefighters, who were first on the scene, believed Dziekanski was dead when he was examined.
One of the firefighters was also critical of police refusing to remove the handcuffs from Dziekanski so he could be properly assessed.
Final submissions by lawyers continue today and all this week.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Monday, October 05, 2009
October 5, 2009