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Monday, November 30, 2009

Question of 'police investigating police' discussed in Vancouver conference

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - Investigations into police conduct is being debated this morning in Vancouver, as the province moves away from the practice of 'police investigating police'. The question many people ask is: Can police be trusted to investigate themselves in serious incidents? And money could be a factor in what kind of investigative system B.C. adopts.

B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed says he wants investigations into claims of police wrong-doing to be accountable, transparent and effective. "That is why were are here today, to bring all interested parties together, to discuss ideas and solutions." Ontario's civilian-supervised Special Investigations Unit has a mix of civilian, ex-police and police investigators. In England, all complaints about police are handled by an all-civilian organization.

Today's conference at SFU's downtown campus is bringing together criminologists, and heads of police investigation organizations outside B.C. SFU criminologist David McAllister says one drawback to purely civilian is that they are much more expensive to run, than organizations combining police and civilians. For instance, England's all-civilian organization costs approximately 35 million pounds to run.

Heed was asked if cost will be a determining factor. "Well, we're always cognizant of costs and will continue to be cognizant of costs, but at the end of the day, I'm working on the principle of the most accountable and transparent police service in British Columbia." Heed also set no deadline for his decision on when B.C.'s eventual police complaints commission will be brought into force. He says things like the Braidwood Taser Inquiry have to wrap up before he makes any conclusions.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Willey tape could become public

November 29, 2009
Rodney Venis, Prince George Citizen

The Willey family is waiting until a Dec. 11 meeting with RCMP to decide whether or not to release to the general public a video depicting the Tasering and dragging of a suspect at the Prince George detachment, their lawyer said Wednesday.

The video is currently in the middle of a string of recent developments related to the 2003 death of Clayton Willey, which includes the expansion of a police watchdog probe into allegations video evidence was tampered with and a National Post report that one of the officers involved, Corporal John Graham, had a history of violent confrontations with suspects (see related story.)

"We expect to see the video tape in total there," said Simon Wagstaffe, the Willey family's lawyer. "The family wish to see all the RCMP have before they decide on the question of general release."

In the meantime, the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP (CPC) continues to examine whether a surveillance video showing parts of the in-custody treatment of Willey was edited when it was screened for members of the media, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association after a freelance journalist submitted a freedom of information act request.

The groups claim the version they watched showed: an RCMP SUV arriving in the detachment garage; Willey being dragged down a hallway, hog-tied, with his hands bound behind his back and tethered to his feet; Willey’s head hitting the entrance to an elevator; a Taser targeting Willey’s back; Willey being dragged out of an elevator, into a booking area, where he’s Tasered at least twice more.

Willey had been arrested for causing a public disturbance at the Parkwood Place mall and died later in hospital. The coroner's inquest found he died of a cocaine overdose and officers testified Willey was in an violent, drug-induced haze.

But there was concern from David Eby of the BCCLA that there were no date or time codes on the video he was shown. Both he and Willey’s family also claimed there are missing incidents in the one screened recently, particularly a moment when Willey is dragged from the SUV by a ‘hobble’ - the rope of the hog tie - and his head hits a part of the vehicle and then the garage floor.

Eby saw a version of the tape after the FOI request this year; the Willey family viewed another version of tape before the coroner’s inquest in 2004.

The inquest jury and Crown counsel at the time also saw the so-called raw footage of the Willey incident at the time; joining that group is Solicitor General Kash Heed, whose letter to CPC chair Paul Kennedy on Nov. 20 prompted the expanded probe.
"It's incumbent upon me to let Commissioner Kennedy do his work on his investigation," said Heed. "I'm not going to comment on the video because I've asked Mr. Kennedy to look at the aspect and determine what the course of action should be."

The CPC investigation was already examining the Willey case as part of wider look at all Taser-related in-custody deaths in Canada. On Monday, it was expanded to look at the video issue and whether subsequent RCMP investigation into Willey's death was adequate and free of actual or perceived conflict of interest.

B.C. RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Tim Shields, who's seen both versions of the Willey tape, said the Force welcomed an external, third-party look at the allegations of evidence tampering. "Nothing was removed from the tapes and they were not tampered with and, to insure that, full and complete disclosure was made to the coroner's inquest, Crown counsel and the Willey family."

A forensic video analyst will examine the Willey footage.

RCMP defends officer with violent history

November 29, 2009
Rodney Venis, Prince George Citizen

A Prince George officer profiled in the National Post as a "rogue cowboy Mountie" with a "propensity for violence" did not Taser a hog-tied suspect and was not present during the in-custody incident prior to the suspect's death.

RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Tim Shield said Corporal John Graham was with another member at Prince George Regional Hospital as Clayton Willey was being Tasered and dragged through the Prince George detachment in July 2003.

Graham's role in the arrest, which started with Willey confronting RCMP at the Parkwood Place mall in a violent, drug-induced haze and culiminated with the 33-year-old man dying of a cocaine overdose, was limited to binding Willey's feet and hands behind his back. Hogtying suspects, according to the Post, had been banned two months prior to the incident, but Cpl. Graham was reportedly unaware of the change in policy.

"Willey was kicking violently and it was the only way to restrain his legs to prevent him from continuing to kick," said Shields. "In the Willey incident there was no finding against Graham, in fact, he was not present at the time Mr. Willey was Tasered and there was no finding of wrongdoing regarding the arrest."

The policy was changed because hogtying could lead to positional asphyxia, which was potentially fatal.

According to the Post, Graham is currently a supervisor in the North District traffic services integrated road safety unit, based in Prince George.

Shields said the incidents that chequer Graham's career - which include a fatal shooting in Newfoundland, an assault conviction in 2002, the Willey arrest and an altercation with a suspect only known as JAL - must each be judged on its own.

According to the National Post, then Constable Graham's career took a troubled turn in Aug. 2000 in Little Catalina, Newfoundland when he shot and killed Norman Reid. Reid, 43, was a schizophrenic with a history of disturbing behaviour; residents reported that day Reid had threatened some local children "in a violent way", according to an inquiry report.

When RCMP responded, Reid came at Cpl. Graham with an axe, screaming "I'm going to kill you." Graham shot Reid five times.

"The shooting in Newfoundland was the subject of numerous investigations and inquests and was deemed to be a justified use of force," said Shield.

The inquiry, by Judge Donald Luther, did rule Graham behaved appropriately; nevertheless, court documents revealed he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident.

It was not the only incident from his time in Newfoundland. Robert Buckingham, a lawyer for a man in that province suing Cpl. Graham over an unrelated, allegedly wrongful arrest, called the officer a "rogue Cowboy Mountie."

Graham was transferred soon after the Reid shooting to B.C.

In 2002, a year before the death of Willey, he pled guilty to assault causing bodily harm after - according to a B.C. provincial court judgment - an altercation with "a Mr. MacDonald." Cpl. Graham admitted he "overreacted" when he kicked Mr. MacDonald in the torso and head, leaving the latter with broken bones in the face and missing teeth.

The officer was fined, received 18 months probation, was ordered to perform community work and was not disciplined by the RCMP.

"If there is an allegation of excessive force, then an internal code of conduct investigation is launched and, after the court proceeding, there was an internal disciplinary hearing where a board of three very senior officers conduct a trial and call witnesses and make a decision on the appropriate sanctions that can range up to, and including, dismissal from the RCMP," said Shields. "So in this case, this process was followed, there was an internal code of conduct investigation and, after hearing all the facts, the board decided on a sanction that did not include dismissal."

The National Post also reported that Cpl. Graham and another Prince George officer, Const. Glenn Caston, were both involved in Willey's death in 2003 and an incident involving a suspect known as JAL.

Const. Caston told the Willey inquest that he and another officer pulled the suspect by the rope that tied his feet together to get him out of the back of an SUV parked in the Prince George detachment. Willey "may" have bumped his head and shoulder on the frame of the vehicle and the floor of the concrete vehicle bay.

Later, in the detachment's cells booking area, according to the inquest report, Const. Caston and another officer, Const. Kevin O'Donnell, reported they Tasered the hog-tied Willey. The officers, according to the report, believed Willey was still combative, though it is noted nowhere how Willey could have broken free from the hogtie.

Sgt. Shields could not say whether the two officers still serve in Prince George.
In the JAL case, Cpl. Graham testified he deployed his Taser twice against the suspect during a struggle. However he did not file a Taser use report, as the RCMP requires, until more than a year later and JAL's doctor pointed out 21 marks on his body that seemed consistent with burns from a conducted energy weapon. JAL also claimed Const. Caston beat him in the P.G. detachment.

Charges that JAL assaulted RCMP officers were stayed after a videotape of JAL's in-custody treatment went missing, prompting Judge Michael Brecknell to write in his judgment, "This was not a 'simple mistake.'" Brecknell also noted concerns had been aired about Graham's "propensity for violence."

"We have requested an independent directed review to examine the RCMP handling, communication and organizational response in the Willey case and the JAL case," said Shields. "This review will be conducted by a municipal polical department from outside of B.C. The name will be released as soon as we have a formalized agreement in place."

Friday, November 27, 2009

RCMP watchdog won't be reappointed

November 27, 2009
CBC News

The federal government will not be reappointing Paul Kennedy as the chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, CBC News has learned.

Kennedy, whose last day on the job will be Dec. 31, reportedly would have accepted another term. He was interested in seeing through anticipated new legislation to bring in a civilian oversight agency for the RCMP.

Kennedy recently completed an investigation into the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport and has investigated in-custody deaths, Taser use and how Mounties investigate themselves.

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh said the public interest would be better served if Kennedy remained in his post.

"I believe this government is not interested in anyone with any degree of independence. They want servile public servants," he said.

"Whenever someone is doing a tremendous job in the public interest they want to shut them down. They did this with the military police complaints commissioner, Peter Tinsley."

Tinsley, whose term also expires next month and will not be renewed, also wanted to stay on because of his ongoing inquiry into the treatment of Afghan detainees.

A statement from the office of Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan thanked Kennedy for his "distinguished and professional service," adding he has "provided guidance that will be considered as the RCMP continues to make progress on its transformation agenda."

"The government will be moving to reform oversight of the RCMP in the months ahead to strengthen accountability," the statement said. "It will seek to ensure independent investigation of incidents, so that the force does not lead investigations into itself."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

RCMP Complaints Commission Launches Probe into Clay Willey Death

November 24, 2009
By 250 News BC

Ottawa, Ont. – Acting on a request by the Solicitor General of British Columbia, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) is expanding its Chair-initiated complaint and public interest investigation into all Taser-related in-custody deaths and to look specifically into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Clay Alvin Willey in Prince George, B.C.on July 22, 2003.

CPC Chair Paul E. Kennedy initiated a public complaint on 15 January, 2009 into all incidents where individuals in the custody of the RCMP died following the use of a conducted energy weapon (CEW), which incidents have taken place anywhere in Canada between January 1, 2001 and January 1, 2009.

The arrest and subsequent death of Mr. Clay Alvin Willey in Prince George, is one of the incidents referred to in the complaint.

Mr. Willey's death was the subject of a Coroner's inquest conducted by the British Columbia Coroner's Service in October 2004. One of the pieces of evidence considered at the Coroner's inquest was a compilation of video footage from a number of security cameras located throughout the Prince George RCMP Detachment.

The Solicitor General of British Columbia has on behalf of the residents of British Columbia, raised concerns directly with the CPC regarding this incident and in particular with respect to the integrity of the video evidence relating to the arrest and detention of Mr. Willey. In correspondence to the CPC, the Solicitor General commented that members of the media have "raised concerns with the in-custody treatment of Mr. Willey and have expressed concern that the video in question has not been released to the public. Allegations have also been made in the media that further video evidence exists beyond that contained in the compilation video." Consequently, the Solicitor General requested that the CPC "review the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Willey so that British Columbians can have continued confidence in the RCMP."

The original complaint was initiated to examine:

•whether the RCMP officers involved in the aforementioned events, from the moment of initial contact with the individual until the time of each individual's death, complied with all appropriate training, policies, procedures, guidelines and statutory requirements relating to the use of force; and
•whether existing RCMP policies, procedures and guidelines applicable to such incidents are adequate.

Specific to Mr. Willey's death, the CPC will now also examine:

•whether the RCMP members involved in the investigation of Mr. Willey's arrest and subsequent death conducted an investigation that was adequate, and free of actual or perceived conflict of interest; and
•whether any other video evidence (other than the compilation video referred to above) exists and whether any RCMP member concealed, tampered with or otherwise inappropriately modified in any way, any evidence, in particular any video evidence, relating to the arrest of Mr. Willey.

The CPC has retained the services of a former chief of police from a large Ontario municipality to conduct this public interest investigation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


A guestbook message received here today deserves its own post:

We are the group that placed the 388 crosses in the front yard of the Harlan household, where Stanley Harlan was murdered in front of his home & mother. There is not a day that goes by that he is not thought of and missed.

We are still willing and able to help in the world-wide BAN on the taser!

PLEASE, if there is anyway that all the "groups" that are working in their towns to try to ban these "non lethal weapons", if there is anyway we can all work together and fight Taser International as a bigger group, maybe we would have a better chance!! My thoughts & prayers are with all family, friends of loved ones that have lost their lives to the Taser affects.


Monday, November 23, 2009

TASER International's 100th Lawsuit Dismissal Won on Summary Judgment

Comments received on this post as follows:

Notice the case was thrown out, "without prejudice", meaning that it can be re-filed in the future. And it was all "based on available evidence in 2003", a time when the company probably claimed it had no idea that their products could cause death.

The above comment is inaccurate. The case was dismissed with prejudice; summary judgment was granted; it cannot be refiled.

It is important to note that despite Taser's inference to the contrary, the Court said that the ruling was not inconsistent with any of the rulings in the prior Heston case where Taser lost. Specifically, here the Court did not rule against the Plaintiffs based on their theory of how Rosa died, but only as to the knowability of their theory at the time he died.

November 23, 2009

Landmark Ruling in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in the Ninth Circuit

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Nov. 23, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), a leading provider of technology solutions and the market leader in electronic control devices (ECDs), announced that on November 20, 2009, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California entered an order and judgment for TASER International in the arrest-related-death lawsuit entitled Rosa v. TASER International, et al. granting TASER International's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs were represented in the Rosa case by California attorneys: John C. Burton, Peter M. Williamson, John F. Baker, and Peter T. Cathcart. Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2005, and aggressively litigated their case for 4 years. The medical examiner had determined cause of death was from the methamphetamine Mr. Rosa ingested.

The Court noted that "California courts require that plaintiffs present evidence of 'general recogni[tion] and prevailing best scientific and medical knowledge' to meet the 'known or knowable' element of a strict liability claim." In addition, the court noted that the "evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to raise a triable issue as to 'knowability' of the risk,... [and] insufficient to create a triable issue as to whether TASER should have known of the risk."

The Court also noted that "TASER has developed a comprehensive warning system in which every ECD sold or distributed is accompanied by a training CD/DVD and operating manual to be used by TASER-certified instructors," and that Defendant's expert Dr. Raymond Fish "unequivocally rejects the theory that ECDs on humans decrease respiration and cause dangerous acidosis."

In granting TASER's motion for summary judgment, the Court stated that TASER International's assertions "are well-taken" that there are no genuine issues of material fact with regard to whether, "the alleged propensity of ECDs to cause metabolic acidosis was known or knowable on December 30, 2003, when the ECDs in question were shipped from TASER to its distributor; [and]... TASER's warnings with respect to the dangers posed by application of its ECDs were adequate..."

"It is important to note that this case was brought by the same plaintiff's counsel, using fundamentally the same liability theory as the Heston case in 2008," and "it is ironic that this case is won in the same week as TASER filed its opening appellate brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Heston case," said Doug Klint, President and General Counsel of TASER International. "Studies published since the Heston trial have largely disproven the acidosis theory, demonstrating that the exertion effects associated with TASER(R) ECD discharges are lower than several other physical force tactics. We believe the findings from the court in this most recent case is an important landmark for both law enforcement and the Company. TASER International will continue to aggressively defend all litigation filed against the Company and will seek all recoverable costs from plaintiffs."

New Jersey Attorney General set rules to police stun-gun use

November 23, 2009
The Associated Press

Police officers in New Jersey can use stun guns under limited circumstances, according to rules issued by Attorney General Anne Milgram.

Milgram said trained officers can use them on armed, emotionally disturbed persons who refuse to surrender. The prohibit officers from using stun guns to get people to move, get on the ground or exit a vehicle.

Police also can't use the guns on handcuffed suspects or against a person on an elevated surface.

Milgram said it's prudent to have "adequate controls, training and accountability."

The size of the police department will determine the number of officers authorized to carry the weapons.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Taser death raises claims of a 'cowboy Mountie'

November 21, 2009
Brian Hutchinson in Vancouver, National Post

A B.C.-based RCMP officer who figures in a controversial in-custody death involving Tasers had a prior assault conviction from an incident that left his victim with broken facial bones and missing teeth, the National Post has learned.

Subsequent to those two events, Corporal John Graham was accused in B.C. provincial court of striking a Prince George man at least 21 times with a Taser. A judge in that case noted concerns had been raised about Cpl. Graham's "propensity for violence." Reference was made to still another incident, when Cpl. Graham shot and killed a mentally ill man in Newfoundland.

Robert Buckingham, a lawyer for a man in Newfoundland who is suing Cpl. Graham over an unrelated, allegedly wrongful arrest, calls the stocky officer a "rogue cowboy Mountie who is moved from place to place and [who] thinks he can do whatever he wants."

In-custody deaths and the use of Tasers are a particularly sensitive topic in B.C., where Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died following a confrontation with the RCMP in 2007. He was jolted by a Taser five times.

New concerns -- including suggestions of a police cover-up -- arising from an earlier case were raised this week at a news conference convened by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and a former chief medical examiner for two provinces.

Cpl. Graham was one of the officers who wrestled with a deranged Clayton Alvin Willey prior to his arrest in Prince George in July 2003, the civil rights group explained. Cpl. Graham bound Mr. Willey's feet and hands behind his back in a "hog-tie," a restraint position that contravened RCMP policy.

Mr. Willey was dragged on his stomach into an RCMP detachment where he was Tasered multiple times by two other officers. He went into cardiac arrest while being transported to hospital, where he died the next morning. His cause of death was determined to be cocaine overdose.

One question raised this week is whether police disclosed a complete set of videotapes showing Mr. Willey in custody at the Prince George detachment.

David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, claims the tapes were "edited into a narrative" that was helpful to police at a 2004 coroner's inquest into Mr. Willey's death.

"The most important piece [of video] is missing," he said in an interview. Members of Mr. Willey's family claim to have seen video that shows his head smacking the ground as RCMP officers pulled him from a police vehicle inside the Prince George detachment garage.

Sergeant Tim Shields, the RCMP's head of strategic communications in B.C., said this week that as far as he knows, "not one second of the video recorded to tape was withheld" from the Willey inquest. "In order to confirm that total and complete disclosure has been made, the original videotape is presently being examined by a forensic video analyst," he added yesterday.

The video footage might be made public next month, said Sgt. Shields, once Mr. Willey's family has had an opportunity to review it.

RCMP Constable Glenn Caston, one of the arresting officers, testified at the 2004 coroner's inquest that he and another officer "pulled Mr. Willey from the vehicle through the side rear seat door by the rope that had been used to tie Mr. Willey's feet together."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"You weren’t spanking me, you were fighting me" or Parents at their wits' end

November 21, 2009
Ledger-Enquirer, Columbus, GA

The part of the story we were privy to ended with a 10-year-old Ozark, Ark., girl being Tasered (with her mother’s permission — if not at the mother’s request) and taken to a juvenile facility in handcuffs.

According to subsequent reports, however, the girl’s father, Anthony Medlock, said his daughter had emotional issues and since she didn’t have a weapon he doesn’t think a stun gun should have been used on his daughter.

Police were reportedly called to the troubled household Nov. 11 after the mother couldn’t get her daughter to take a shower.

According to a copy of his police report on thesmokinggun.com, the girl was curled up on the floor crying and screaming when Officer Dustin Bradshaw arrived.

The girl was violently kicking and verbally combative when Bradshaw tried to take her into custody, according to the report, and she kicked Bradshaw in the groin. He delivered “a very brief drive stun to her back,” he said.

“Her mother told me to Taser her if I needed to,” Bradshaw wrote in the report.

Some family service and juvenile offender workers tell gut-wrenching tales of family situations they have encountered. In such situations, children who frequently have problems behaving have their treatment escalated to levels better suited to adults.

Before the Ozark incident, how many instances of children being Tasered had we heard of?

People who deal with families, including mental health professionals, say stress and frustration play a big role in some parental decisions.

In families where corporal punishment is administered, spankings can turn into fights. When a frustrated parent feels like he or she is at wit’s end, it’s not difficult for a child to be viewed as an enemy.

I remember talking to a mother who said her daughter “didn’t treat me any better than she would treat a stranger. So that’s the way I treated her.”

The two of them had a physical fight. Names were called. Hair was pulled. Faces were slapped.

Their issues were not resolved, but at least for the moment, the mother said she was somewhat relieved — if only for a moment.

In another situation, a parent told of spanking a child for some misdeed. But when the child said “you weren’t spanking me, you were fighting me,” the parent’s head dropped in shame.

God only knows what went on in the Ozark household before police were called. We can only hope the mother — since the parents are divorced and the father doesn’t have custody — finds a way to help her little girl that doesn’t involve the police and stun guns.

Contact Kaffie Sledge at sledgekh@yahoo.com

The Taser Attorney

Woodland Hills, CA: California attorney Peter Williamson is fast becoming Taser International’s worst nightmare. Over the last decade and more, the makers of the controversial handheld electroshock gun have been the target of dozens of lawsuits, ranging from product liability to police misconduct and wrongful death. However, Williamson and his co-counsel John Burton are the first attorneys to obtain a favorable verdict on behalf of a plaintiff.

In a David and Goliath case suit against Taser International this September, a jury ordered to the company to pay $153,000 to the family of Robert Heston. Heston, who was high on methamphetamine at the time, died after police fired at him 25 times with taser-electroshocks in an attempt to subdue him.

The Heston jury found that Taser International failed to warn police about the potential cardiac arrest risks associated with the use of the weapon.

As many as 70 other taser victims have attempted to sue Taser International, but few, if any, even came to trial before the Heston case.

The Taser International legal team frequently employed the Daubert Challenge, which essentially gives a judge the power to determine who may or may not be considered an expert witness. Because there was so little scientific data available regarding tasers, the tactic successfully eliminated the vast majority of potential plaintiff experts.

Attorney Williamson says that Taser International, once apparently immune from civil suits, is beginning to show cracks in its once-impenetrable walls. He spent thousands of hours preparing for the Heston case.

“We are totally attuned to all the research that is coming out,” says Williamson. “I actually have my Google news alert set to ‘taser’. So everyday I get a compendium of stories from all over the country – every death case, every incident of taser firing so we really keep tabs on what is going on.”

Williamson now focuses the largest part of his practice on taser complaints. Since he began working on the Heston case in 2005 he has built a considerable and formidable body of knowledge on everything from ventricular defibrillation to metabolic acidosis. Perhaps most important of all, he has a rolodex full of expert contacts.

“I don’t want to sound immodest, and I really think we are at the forefront of this litigation,” says Williamson. “I know who most of the players are in this country. I know most of the scientists are. I know the medical doctors, I know the experts.”

Taser International called the Heston verdict a fluke and claimed that the jury’s decision was a sympathy vote. “That’s comical,” says Williamson. “This guy was high on methamphetamine and acting crazy. But obviously we didn’t think he should have been tasered 25 times.”

Peter Williamson is a name partner with the firm of Williamson & Krauss in Woodland Hills, California. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from Rutgers University and his Juris Doctor from Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles.

Pennsylvania man dies days after being tasered

Ronald Petruney, 49, Washington County, Pennsylvania

Friday, November 20, 2009

Death linked to 'excited delirium': coroner

November 20, 2009
CBC News

The death of a man who was stunned with a Taser several times during his arrest two year ago in Chilliwack was not the fault of police actions, a coroner's inquest has determined.

In his report, coroner Vincent Stancato concludes that Robert Knipstrom, 36, died from acute ecstasy intoxication and excited delirium.

A coroner's inquest into Knipstrom's death began Monday and the conclusions were released Thursday night.

The jury has recommended police and paramedics change how they handle cases where individuals show symptoms of excited delirium, which can include paranoia, agitation, aggression and extraordinary strength. It was also recommended that police request an advanced life support team when dealing with such patients.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Peter Thiessen welcomed the jury's findings.

"It validates in the officers' minds — it certainly validates in my mind — what was it that they were dealing with in the first instance," Thiessen said.

Rental shop takedown
The incident that led to Knipstrom's arrest took place at a Chilliwack rental shop on Nov. 19, 2007, where he had gone to return a wood chipper. After clipping another car in the parking lot, Knipstrom entered the store and began acting strangely, the inquest heard.

Knipstrom aggressively confronted the police officers who were called in by staff at the shop, located east of Vancouver. The inquest was told that police used pepper spray, a metal baton and finally a Taser to subdue and restrain him.

The only contradictory evidence came from a former store employee who said Knipstrom was backing away from the first police officer at the time of his arrest, while other witnesses said it was the officer who was retreating.

The same witness said he thought the officer struck Knipstrom in the head deliberately with his baton, but the officer testified any blows that hit Knipstrom's head would have glanced off his body first.

Witnesses testified that after Knipstrom was taken down he continued to thrash around on the ground and resist officers. He was eventually loaded into an ambulance face down — a violation of policy — because he refused to turn over.

Knipstrom's heart stopped beating a short time later, and while doctors managed to resuscitate him, he never recovered and died five days later in Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Death blamed on drugs and delirium
It was later determined that Knipstrom had acute levels of the illegal drug ecstasy in his system.

Excited delirium has been blamed for a number of deaths in police custody and critics have dismissed the that conclusion as a way to excuse overly aggressive police actions.

But Dr. Christine Hall, an emergency medicine specialist, said Knipstrom was a textbook example of the condition: high, strong as an ox, and impervious to pain.

Hall said the condition is real and medical understanding of it is evolving.

"The controversy and the evolution has actually occurred in other illnesses — sudden infant death syndrome for example," said Hall.

"For years and years there was a huge debate about does this exist. Is it really a syndrome? What are the symptoms? Why is it only happening that children are dying? And now we know that medical textbooks and lists of diagnoses have evolved to include that," said Hall.

Michigan man dies after he is tasered

November 19, 2009: Jesus Gillard, 61, Bloomfield Township, Michigan

Man Goes Into Cardiac Arrest After Police Use Taser

November 19, 2009

WASHINGTON, Pa. -- A man is in the hospital after a confrontation with Washington police, who said he had a seizure and became combative, forcing them to use a Taser on him.

Washington city police said 49-year-old Ronald Petruney was walking in the 1000 block of Jefferson Avenue when he had a seizure. A police officer noticed the seizure and stopped and came over to Petruney.

According to police, the officer tried to help Petruney and keep him from moving into the middle of the street. That's when, police say, the man became violent.

"Mr. Petruney actually charged the officer, swinging at him. And at that point the struggle ensued between the officer and Mr. Petruney," said Lt. Dan Stanek of the Washington Police Department. "The officer had requested additional officers and medics to arrive. As they were arriving, the officer was still involved in the struggle on the ground. Mr. Petruney was biting the officer several times. The officer sustained at least three, possibly four bite marks that he received medical attention for. As Mr. Petruney was being subdued, trying to get him under control, the officers employed the tasers."

Police said they used a Taser on Petruney twice -- once in the leg and once in the back. Police said that's when Petruney went into cardiac arrest and was taken to Washington Hospital.

Petruney remains in the hospital. Police said they plan to charge him with resisting arrest and aggravated assault.

The police officer was treated for his bite wounds and released from the hospital.

Excited delirium not Taser killed Gordon Bowe

"It is not helpful to blame resulting deaths on “excited delirium,” since this conveniently avoids having to examine the underlying medical condition or conditions that actually caused death, let alone examining whether use of the conducted energy weapon and/or subsequent measures to physically restrain the subject contributed to those causes of death." - Braidwood Report, July 2009

November 19, 2009
Canwest News

A Castlegar man who died after a fight with Calgary police was high on cocaine and died of excited delirium -- not as the result of a Taser or police actions -- a review has concluded.

Gordon Bowe's common-law wife, however, said Thursday that she's not convinced and is still blaming police officers for the incident in November.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which examines complaints about police use of force, deemed that police actions were justified in the death of Bowe, 30, who travelled to Calgary for work.

Clifton Purvis, head of the response team, said he came to his conclusions after reviewing the investigation, consulting with the medical examiner and considering the prosecution's opinion.

Excited delirium is a controversial term recognized by some medical examiners that has been used to explain deaths of individuals in police custody. Most doctors and psychologists do not acknowledge the condition.

Autopsy links Taser to Cardall's death - Coroner cites being stunned near the heart as a key factor

November 19, 2009
Melinda Rogers, The Salt Lake Tribune

A Taser that twice shocked Brian Cardall contributed to or caused heart irregularities in the 32-year-old man that led to his death on the side of a southern Utah highway in June, the Utah Medical Examiner's Office has ruled.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Erik Christensen cited "ventricular fibrillation following conducted energy weapon deployment during a manic episode with psychotic features" as Cardall's cause of death.

The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a copy of the autopsy report Thursday from the Cardalls' attorney. The family chose to release it after Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said he will not prosecute the officer who deployed a Taser on Cardall.

Belnap said Hurricane police Officer Ken Thompson legally used a Taser on Cardall as the man suffered a bipolar manic episode June 9.

The Cardall family disagrees with Belnap's decision, said Karra Porter, who is advising the Cardalls on their legal options.

Christensen's report states that prongs from a Taser a Hurricane police officer deployed struck Cardall over his heart. While Christensen acknowledged other factors could have contributed to Cardall's death, he pointed out factors that indicate a Taser electrocuted a naked, unarmed Cardall.

"While it is generally acknowledged that [Taser] use is safe and represents an extremely low risk due to the electrical activity of the weapon, the circumstances in this case represent a combination of the factors that are believed to increase the risk of a potential electrical death," Christensen's report reads.

"These include the placement of the barbs over the cardiac axis, the penetration of the barbs deeply into a thin chest wall directly over the heart, absence of intervening clothing and more than one cycle of electrical stimulation.

"Additionally, the initial cardiac rhythm of ventricular fibrillation is consistent with findings seen in cases of electrocution."

Christensen's conclusion that the X-26 Taser, made by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International, played a significant role in Cardall's death is bold.

While Taser International has claimed its products are not risk free, it has publicly stated its products do not cause cardiac arrest. It has filed numerous lawsuits against medical examiners who have cited Tasers as a cause of death.

Christensen noted that because Cardall, a graduate student at Northern Arizona University, was in a manic state, he was at risk for a heart attack before the Taser struck him.

Christensen said Cardall did not die from excited delirium, a syndrome often cited as a cause of death when someone is agitated or delirious and then dies after forcefully being taken into custody.

Thompson twice deployed a Taser on Cardall on the side of State Road 59 near Hurricane after Anna Cardall called 911 to report her husband was behaving erratically.

Thompson, one of multiple officers on the scene, waited 42 seconds after arriving before he deployed a Taser on a manic and confused Cardall, according to 911 recordings.

The 156-pound Cardall is heard screaming for about five seconds after Thompson first deploys a Taser on him. After a two-second pause, Thompson deploys the Taser on Cardall again. He says in the recordings Cardall had tried to get up.

Mental health history

Christensen's report details Cardall's struggle with bipolar disorder, which surfaced with depression in high school. Doctors diagnosed him as bipolar in 2005 after a manic episode that required brief hospitalization.

Cardall suffered manic episodes in 2006 and 2007, which he believed was due to a lack of sleep and stress, the report states. Cardall had been on and off medication for his disorder; he had scaled back medication in January.

Christensen wrote that Seroquel, the medication Cardall took for bipolar disorder, likely didn't contribute to his reaction after being shocked. He detected trace amounts of marijuana in Cardall's system, but Cardall tested negative for other illicit drugs.

Cardall's family told Christensen that Cardall occasionally used marijuana, according to the report.

Taser International had not yet seen Christensen's report, company spokesman Steve Tuttle said.

"We have not been provided a copy of the autopsy for our medical advisory board to review the details of this tragic incident. Our hearts continue to go out to the Cardall family during this difficult time," Tuttle told The Tribune .

Peter Stirba, a Salt Lake City attorney representing the Hurricane Police Department, said only that Belnap's decision vindicates Thompson and was correct based on evidence.

Possible lawsuit?

The Cardall family is disappointed Belnap didn't hand off the case to another county, said Porter, of Salt Lake City-based law firm Christensen and Jensen.

"It would be awkward for a county attorney in a relatively rural area to prosecute people he works with every day," she said.

Utah law, however, says county attorneys handle use of force investigations.

Any lawsuit filed by the Cardall family will face fierce contention from Taser International, which has only lost one case in the 97 lawsuits filed against the company since its inception in 1993, Tuttle said.

But the tide is beginning to turn, said California attorney Peter Williamson, who, along with co-counsel John Burton, recently won the first suit against Taser International.

A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for Northern California ordered Taser to pay $1.4 million in attorney fees to Williamson and Burton, who represented the family of Robert Heston, who was killed in 2005 after he was shocked multiple times while high on methamphetamine.

The 40-year-old man's father had called police for help to restrain his combative son. Five officers shocked Heston 25 times.

Judge James Ware ordered the company to pay attorney fees following a decision by a jury to award Heston's family $153,000 in damages. The jury found that Taser International didn't properly educate the police who stunned Heston about cardiac risks associated with the weapon.

In an explanation of why he awarded attorneys fees in the case, Ware wrote: "The notoriety of ... the first-of-its-kind verdict, in some circumstances, has prompted a number of Taser customers and prospective customers to consider the risk of repeated and prolonged Taser electric charges on individuals in an excited or delirious state."

Williamson said the company considers the verdict in the Heston case "a fluke."

"The only way we can get Taser to change its warnings and training is to sue them enough times that they finally capitulate," said Williamson, who believes the Cardalls have a strong case against Taser.

Changing targets

In an Oct. 12 bulletin, Taser told police not to aim a Taser at a suspect's chest. Shooting the device lower will incapacitate a suspect more effectively, it said. The bulletin notes police still can shoot at a chest lacking a better option.

Taser critics say the bulletin is the company's first admission that the weapons pose a cardiac risk --- an allegation the company denies. The company based its decision on best practices research and will help police avoid lawsuits from those who claim the devices cause injuries and other health problems, Taser's Rick Guilbault said in the bulletin.

Taser's bulletin states the risk of cardiac arrest when a Taser is deployed on a suspect is low, but notes reactions can't be predicted, particularly when other underlying medical conditions or drugs are added to the equation.

"We have not stated that Taser causes [cardiac] events in this bulletin, only that the refined target zones avoid any potential controversy on this topic," Tuttle said.

He added changes "specifically had nothing to do with the Cardall incident."

But Williamson is skeptical.

"It's interesting to note within the last 30 days, Taser has issued its [new training bulletin]," Williamson said, adding that in addition to the Cardall case, Taser is dealing with another pending California trial where a man died after being shocked in 2004.

Taser as a cause of death

Medical examiners nationwide have been sued for citing Tasers as a cause of death.

Last year, an Ohio judge ordered a medical examiner to remove Taser's name from three autopsies. The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office "offered no medical, scientific or electrical evidence to justify finding the stun gun was a factor in the deaths of two men in 2005 and another in 2006," The Arizona Republic reported in May 2008. Taser and the City of Akron had sued the medical examiner, claiming the examiners didn't have the proper education to decide whether Tasers contributed to the death.

The county's chief medical examiner contested the ruling, according to The Arizona Republic.

Taser also sued Indiana coroner Roland Kohr, who found the weapon contributed to a man's death in 2004.

Taser International dismisses what it calls misconceptions that the company targets medical examiners who make unflattering reports.

"This is simply not true," Tuttle said. "In the two instances that Taser has brought legal action regarding medical examiners, the lawsuits were to correct scientifically baseless opinions that resulted in very negative consequences to numerous entities and people."

Williamson disagrees. He said Taser intimidates medical examiners who find the stun guns lead to death.

"Very few medical examiners will stick their necks out on the line," he said.

Excited delirium theory nixed

Christensen's finding that Cardall did not die of excited delirium in Cardall is noteworthy. Speculation that the controversial syndrome killed Cardall has been widespread among law enforcement since he died. In a letter to the editor The Tribune published in June, University of Minnesota biomedical engineering professor Mark Kroll suggested excited delirium killed Cardall.

Kroll, a member of Taser's scientific and medical advisory board, wrote that: "Excited delirium is a widely accepted entity in forensic pathology and is cited by medical examiners to explain the sudden in-custody deaths of individuals who are combative and in a highly agitated state."

"The fundamentals of an excited delirium death are not that difficult to understand," Kroll wrote. "Our bodies have limits to exertion... If these limits are sufficiently exceeded, we will die."

Christensen's report states that Cardall displayed some symptoms of excited delirium, but he did not show signs of hyperthermia, a condition where the body produces more heat than it can expend. He wasn't involved in a physical struggle and didn't show "feats of superhuman strength," which is common in excited delirium cases.

"His initial cardiac rhythm is also different from the usual rhythm in cases of [excited delirium]," the report states.

Porter said Christensen's findings support the Cardall family's efforts to expose Brian Cardall's mistreatment. The family may file a lawsuit so that "the full truth emerges regarding Brian's death."

"They also want to feel reassured that steps are being taken to prevent other senseless deaths in the future," she said.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Arkansas cop suspended after using Taser on girl, 10

See also Ozark police taser 10-year-old little girl
See also Police report about tasering the 10-year-old little girl

November 19, 2009
The Associated Press

OZARK, Ark. — A police officer who used a stun gun on an unruly 10-year-old girl after he said her mother gave him permission has been suspended — not for using the Taser but for not having a video camera attached when he used it.

Mayor Vernon McDaniel said officer Dustin Bradshaw was suspended Wednesday for seven days with pay. McDaniel said the suspension is for not following department procedures because he didn't have the camera on.

McDaniel wants Arkansas State Police or the FBI to look into whether the use of the Taser was proper. The girl, who hasn't been identified, wasn't injured and is now at the Western Arkansas Youth Shelter in Cecil.

Police were called to the home Nov. 11 after the girl's mother couldn't get her to take a shower.

Bradshaw's report says the girl was "violently kicking and verbally combative" when Bradshaw tried to take her into custody, and she kicked him in the groin. He said he delivered "a very brief drive stun to her back."

"Her mother told me to tase her if I needed to," Bradshaw wrote.

Kim Brunell, a spokeswoman with the FBI in Little Rock, said her office neither confirms nor denies when it's involved an investigation and declined to comment Wednesday. State police have declined McDaniel's request to investigate.

Police Chief Jim Noggle said Wednesday that Tasers are a safe way to subdue people who are a danger to themselves or others.

"We didn't use the Taser to punish the child — just to bring the child under control so she wouldn't hurt herself or somebody else," Noggle said.

If the officer tried to forcefully put the girl in handcuffs, he could have accidentally broken her arm or leg, Noggle said.

He said a touch of the stun gun — "less than a second" — stopped the girl from being unruly, and she was handcuffed.

"She got up immediately and they put her in the patrol car," McDaniel said.

Noggle said the girl will face disorderly conduct charges as a juvenile in the incident.

The girl's father, Anthony Medlock, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that his daughter has emotional problems, but that she didn't have a weapon and shouldn't have been Tasered.

"My daughter does not deserve to be tased and be treated like an animal," said Medlock, who is divorced from the girl's mother and does not have custody.

Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser International, said it's up to individual law enforcement agencies to decide when Taser use is appropriate.

In some cases, a Taser "presents the safer response to resistance compared with the alternatives such as fists, kicks, baton strikes, bean bag guns, chemical agents, or canine response," Tuttle said in a statement.

The police chief, who has been Tasered twice himself during training sessions, said his department has never had to use a stun gun on a child or elderly person before, but that in some instances, that could be necessary to ensure safety.

"We don't want to do things like this," Noggle said. "This is something we have to do. We're required to maintain order and keep the peace."

RCMP may release 2003 Tasering tape

November 18, 2009
Canwest News Service

The RCMP is considering publicly releasing a police video showing a Metis man, Clayton Alvin Willey, being stunned by a Taser in 2003, hours before he died of a heart attack in a Prince George jail.

Critics of the RCMP's handling of Willey say disclosure of the video could provoke the kind of public outrage that followed release of a video of the Taser-related death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.

"It [the video] is very disturbing, very brutal and very ugly," said Grand Chief Stewart Philip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, who has seen a version of the tape.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields said Tuesday the force is willing to discuss the release of the video with Willey's family later this month. The RCMP wants to show the family the video and other information about the case before a decision is made, he said.

"A decision hasn't been made yet [on release of the video] but we want to ensure that the family is aware of all privacy concerns involving this video," Shields said.

The RCMP statement followed a public call for the release of the video Monday by Philip and BC Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby.

Police used a Taser on Willey while he was tied and dragged face down from a police vehicle into the Prince George detachment.

Phillip and Eby believe the version of the video they and family members saw was edited. The RCMP has insisted that there was no editing. "This is the full and complete version," Shields said.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tasered B.C. man taken to hospital facedown, handcuffed

November 18, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, Vancouver Province

A Chilliwack man who died after being Tasered by RCMP was taken to hospital in handcuffs facedown, contrary to B.C. Ambulance Service policy, an inquest heard Wednesday.

Although Robert Knipstrom had been pepper-sprayed, Tasered and "beaten on the head by a metal police baton" his "chief complaint was shortness of breath," paramedic Rick Simon told a coroner's inquest Wednesday morning.

Simon admitted the 36-year-old was not turned onto his back until he began to turn blue in the face in a hospital emergency ward.

The inquest heard that when Simon arrived at the EZE Rent-it Centre in Chilliwack on Nov. 19, 2007, he had difficulty communicating with Knipstrom, who was thrashing around violently and shouting.

Simon admitted to lawyer Rodrick MacKenzie that it is B.C. Ambulance Service policy never to transport a restrained patient facedown and to warn police that the position can cause difficulty breathing or even be fatal.

But Simon said he decided to get Knipstrom into an ambulance and to hospital as quickly as possible because the man was so agitated.

Knipstrom developed a fear of Tasers after an RCMP officer used the weapon on him six months earlier.

Simon said he was concerned that turning Knipstrom onto his back could cause more injuries if he was dropped.

The paramedic and two RCMP officers stayed with Knipstrom at Chilliwack General Hospital, where he waited for 27 minutes to be seen by medical staff.

At 4:28 p.m. Simon and the officers noticed Knipstrom's face turning blue. Nurses and doctors rushed in to try to revive Knipstrom, who regained a heartbeat at 4:55 p.m., but never regained consciousness.

He was later transported to Surrey Memorial Hospital when his kidneys began to fail and died there five days later.

Earlier Wednesday, toxicologist Dr. Walter Martz said Knipstrom's blood had traces of the drug ecstasy.

He told the inquiry the drug can cause "psychosis, paranoia and rapidly changing behaviour."

Martz said Knipstrom had no alcohol, prescription drugs or opiates in his system but had tiny traces of cannabis and possibly cocaine, which could have been consistent with casual contact with someone who used the drugs.

Drugs, not Tasers, main cause of Chilliwack man's death, inquest told

November 18, 2009

A lethal dose of the "feel good" drug Ecstasy - not repeated jolts of electricity from Tasers in the hands of Chilliwack RCMP officers - was the main cause of Robert Knipstrom's death, a forensic pathologist told a coroner's jury Wednesday.

But the decision to handcuff the 36-year-old Chilliwack man with his hands behind his back, and then transporting him to hospital lying on his belly in a prone position was "possibly" a contributing factor to his death, Dr. Dan Straathof said.

However, Chilliwack RCMP officers, fire department officials and BC ambulance paramedics testifying at the coroner's inquest have all insisted there was no other way to safely get Knipstrom to hospital after a violent confrontation with police on Nov. 19, 2007.

Knipstrom was returning a wood-chipper to the EZE-Rent-It Centre that day at about 3 p.m. when he started acting strangely, and refused to stay out of an area reserved for employees.

When police were called and two officers arrived from the RCMP detachment across the street, a fight erupted in which Knipstrom was tasered, pepper-sprayed and struck with a metal baton before he was finally subdued by several additional police officers who arrived on the scene.

But even after he was handcuffed, Knipstrom continued to struggle and kick, howling unintelligibly at anyone who approached him, including paramedics trying to treat his wounds.

Paramedic Rick Simon told the inquest Wednesday that he was aware of the ambulance service policy that no patients are to be transported in a prone position while their hands are secured behind their back.

But he said there was no other way to get Knipstrom to hospital, without causing him further injury.

"Every time we tried to move him, he was quite agitated," Simon said. "I was afraid we'd cause him further injury."

So Knipstrom made the 12-minute trip to Chilliwack General Hospital lying on his belly with his hands cuffed behind his back, in violation of the policy.

Shortly after his arrival at CGH at 4:01 p.m., still in a prone position, Knipstrom went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing for about 28 minutes.

Straathof said "acute intoxication" with Ecstasy was the main cause of Knipstrom's death four days later on Nov. 24 at Surrey Memorial Hospital, where he had been transferred for treatment.

Straathof said the physical restraint that Knipstrom was held under at CGH was "a component" of the events which led up to his cardiac arrest, and to the resulting brain and organ damage due to the lack of oxygen.

But he could not say how much of a role the physical restraint played in Knipstrom's death, nor whether the prone position in particular added to the harm.

"There has been some suggestion that physical restraint, especially face-down restraint, can result in reduced lung function," he said.

However, he said it's also possible that Knipstrom could have gone into cardiac arrest from the effect of the Ecstasy alone, without any kind of physical restraints present.

The Tasers did not contribute to the cardiac arrest, Straathof suggested, because it occurred much later after the confrontation with the RCMP. He also found no evidence during an autopsy that the Taser probes actually made contact with Knipstrom's body.

Dr. Walter Martz, a toxicologist at the Provincial Toxicology Centre, said

6.1 mg of Ecstasy per litre of blood was found in a sample taken from Knipstrom when he was admitted to CGH on Nov. 19.

Martz said 150 mg of Ecstasy will produce about 0.5 mg/litre in the blood of a user. The 6 mg found in Knipstrom's blood sample is "within the range" of a lethal dose, he said.

But Martz warned that some people are more sensitive to the drug than others, and instead of the expected euphoria can experience a psychotic episode.

He said a recent animal study also suggests that pepper spray enhances the stimulant effect of Ecstasy, increasing the need for oxygen as the heart rate increases, while at the same time making breathing more difficult.

"The outcome might be fatal," he said.

The inquest is scheduled to end Friday after experts in police use of force and a condition known as "Excited Delirium" are heard.

Arkansas officer Tasers 10-year-old girl who resisted bedtime shower

November 18, 2009
USA Today

Last week a 10-year-old Arkansas girl who refused to shower before bedtime and threw a fit was zapped with a police Taser after her mother gave the officer permission. The girl was then handcuffed and taken to a youth shelter, accused of disorderly conduct. She apparently was not injured.

Today, the mayor of tiny Ozark called on the state police or the FBI to investigate whether the electronic weapon should have been used on someone so young, the Associated Press reports.

"People here feel like that he made a mistake in using a Taser, and maybe he did, but we will not know until we get an impartial investigation," said Mayor Vernon McDaniel.

The state police declined, saying it only investigates criminal, not policy, matters. The FBI also demurred.

Police Chief Jim Noggle said no disciplinary action was taken against Officer Dustin Bradshaw for the Nov. 11 incident. He said Tasers can safely subdue people who are a danger to themselves or others.

"We didn't use the Taser to punish the child — just to bring the child under control so she wouldn't hurt herself or somebody else," Noggle said, adding that she was zapped for "less than a second."

He explained that had the officer tried to forcefully handcuff the girl he could have broken one of her arms or legs.

The girl's father, Anthony Medlock, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that his daughter has emotional problems, but that she didn't have a weapon and shouldn't have been Tasered.

"My daughter does not deserve to be tased and be treated like an animal," said Medlock, who is divorced from the girl's mother and does not have custody.

Keep reading for the details from the police report, which blacked out the identifies of the girl and her mother. Then it's your turn to start kicking and screaming about this.

According Bradshaw's report, police were called to a home because of a domestic disturbance. When he arrived, the girl was curled up on the floor, "screaming, kicking, and resisting every time her mother tried to touch her." Her mother told the officer he could "tase her" if needed, and they then carried the girl into the shower. The girl continued to defy her mother's orders.

"At this point I decided that there was not going to be a peaceful resolution to the issue," Bradshaw wrote. "I moved her into the living room and told her she was going to jail. She continued kicking and crying and I began to try to place her under arrest. She was jerking her arms away from me violently while I was trying to cuff her and thrashing about wildly.

"While she was violently kicking and verbally combative, [the girl] struck me with her legs and feet in the groin. The subject was actively resisting arrest at this time. I was having a difficult time placing the cuffs on her and administered a very very brief drive stun to her back with my taser. She immediately stopped resisting and was placed into handcuffs. She would not walk on her own and I had to carry her to my police car. ..."

Prosecutors drag feet on whether to charge cop in biker's death

November 18, 2009
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

B.C. prosecutors continue dithering five months after Delta police recommended they charge Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson, the most senior Mountie in the Dziekanski Tasering, with killing a motorcyclist a year later while driving drunk.

The criminal justice branch took more than a year to decide not to charge the four officers in the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport Oct. 14, 2007.

Now the branch is taking an inappropriately long time dealing with a horrific Oct. 25, 2008 Tsawwassen accident involving Robinson, the most experienced of the disgraced quartet.

The interminable chronology is a serious indictment of what should be an impartial process. It raises questions about the relationship between prosecutors and the officers they rely on daily in every criminal trial.

Think Stockholm syndrome.

In the high-profile Tsawwassen case, Delta police came under fire for dragging their feet after scheduled court dates were delayed and a decision on charges failed to materialize.

Finally, in June -- eight months after the fatal collision at the intersection of Gilchrist Drive and Sixth Avenue -- they submitted a report to prosecutors recommending Robinson be charged with impaired driving and dangerous driving causing death.

The crash occurred about 10:30 p.m. and Robinson gave breath samples at 11:56 p.m. and 12:16 a.m. that read .12 and .10. The legal limit is .08.

Neil MacKenzie, a spokesman for the criminal justice branch, said in June that the Crown's review should be completed within a month.

The silence since has been deafening.

Following the crash, the motor vehicle branch suspended Robinson's driver's licence for 90 days and he tried unsuccessfully to appeal it.

The brazen Mountie lamely argued in B.C. Supreme Court that an adjudicator didn't properly consider his excuse -- that he left the debris-strewn scene of the collision, had two shots of vodka, and returned. That's why he blew over the limit.

Orion Hutchinson, a 21-year-old recent graduate of BCIT looking forward to a new job, lay dying on the road and Robinson says he went home for quick drink?

Consider that Kurtis Rock, 18, was in the prisoner's dock facing eight charges three days after the Feb. 7 hit-and-run that killed Dr. Aneez Mohammed and Chanelle Morgan near the entrance to Granville Island.

Three days compared to more than a year and counting; one case involving a common citizen, the other a Mountie. Gee, I wonder why people are losing faith in the legal system?

Although the criminal justice branch decided last Dec. 12 not to charge any of the Mounties in connection with Dziekanski's death, testimony this year at the public inquiry into the incident raised serious questions about the integrity of the RCMP investigation and the veracity of the officers -- including Robinson.

There have been calls for the attorney-general to reconsider laying criminal charges against them and the government of Poland is apparently mulling a prosecution.

Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood is writing his final report on the 40-year-old Polish immigrant's death and is expected to deliver it early next year.

But all of that has nothing to do with the death of Hutchinson.

More than a year after a none-too-complicated accident -- almost six months after even the cops said their colleague should be put on trial -- supposedly disinterested prosecutors have been unable to figure out whether to lay charges.

A criminal justice branch spokesman said Tuesday a decision will come soon.

Attorney-General Mike de Jong should be ashamed. Either his prosecutors are incompetent or so overworked they can't get the important jobs done.

There is no reason charges could be laid against Rock but no decision made in Robinson's case for this length of time.

It is a travesty for the family of a young man who died with everything before him and also for a besieged officer who deserves to be either exonerated or convicted and fired.

The RCMP suspended Robinson with pay following Hutchinson's death.

Taser inquest delayed

November 18, 2009
BC Local News

An inquest into the death of a man Tasered by police has been delayed.

A preliminary hearing began on Monday to determine whether charges of robbery against Trina Toffan, 36, warrant going to trial. Four days have been set aside in Provincial Court in Surrey to hear evidence. Toffan has chosen a Supreme Court judge and jury, if the case goes to trial.

Toffan was charged in connection with an armed robbery of the Royal Bank in Brookswood on Sept. 30, 2008 that led to a bizarre and tragic chain of events.

Less than 10 minutes after the armed robbery, police descended on a Brookswood home. Toffan’s boyfriend, Frank Frachette, 49, who police say robbed the the bank, was seen minutes later jumping from his second-storey window naked and bleeding from stab wounds to his chest. He was then Tasered by police after he made an attempt to get back into the house. He died on the way to hospital. He had no criminal history when the robbery was committed.

Toffan has been free on bail. Evidence given in the preliminary hearing cannot be published until after a trial has concluded.

At the time of Frachette’s death, police indicated there would be a full investigation by Vancouver Police and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team because he was Tasered.

Whenever there is an “in custody death,” a coroner’s inquiry is mandatory, said Jeff Dolan, director for the coroner’s service.

The cause of death wasn’t revealed after Frachette died because an inquest was going to take place by a coroner and jury.

But the inquiry could be a year or more away, depending when, or if, Toffan’s trial goes ahead.

“Due to the fact there is a criminal investigation going on, we can’t compromise that investigation and we would be interviewing the same witnesses,” said Dolan.

He said a coroner’s jury is made up of the same pool of people used in criminal trials.

Coroner's inquest into Chilliwack taser death gets under way

November 18, 2009
Robert Freeman - Chilliwack Progress

Robert Knipstrom's father fought back tears yesterday as he described his son to a coroner's jury that's looking into his death two years ago after he was tasered, pepper-sprayed and hit with a metal baton by Chilliwack RCMP officers.

"He was a lovable kid," Knipstrom said. "Everybody loved him."

He said his 36-year-old son called him from the EZE-Rent-It Centre in Chilliwack at about 3 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2007, saying the truck he was using to return a wood-chipper wouldn't start.

"He sounded normal. He wasn't excited or anything," Knipstrom told the coroner's jury.

But something set off Robert Knipstrom in the next few minutes, first turning him into a customer cowering inside the rental shop afraid to go outside, and then into a raging madman fighting off the two police officers who came to help him.

Twice Knipstrom begged the officers, who were unaware he'd been tasered before, not to turn their tasers on him again.

An expert in "excited delirium" - a disputed medical condition allegedly brought on by cocaine abuse that renders the victim resistant to pain while bestowing extra-ordinary strength - is expected to testify at the inquest later this week.

An autopsy report cites a lack of oxygen and "illicit drugs" as the official causes of death, inquest counsel Rod MacKenzie said Monday at the start of the hearings.

A toxicologist and legal counsel for the doctor who treated Knipstrom at Chilliwack General Hospital are also expected to testify at the inquest.

Knipstrom's father allegedly told police at the scene that his son smoked marijuana "regularly" and used cocaine, but he did not know if his son had used any that day. Knipstrom made no mention of his son's drug use during his testimony Tuesday.

Knipstrom was eventually tasered at least five times by police officers, but it appears only one had any effect. It's unclear whether that's because the probes did not make proper contact, or because Knipstrom was feeling no pain because of the "excited delirium" syndrome.

RCMP Cpl. Bruce Abbott finally took Knipstrom down by grabbing him with his hands and "gently" rolling him to the ground while other officers grabbed his arms and legs.

But Abbott agreed he was able to take that action only because he happened to be in the right place at the right time.

"(He) was coming at me quickly, and I didn't want to be fumbling with my pepper spray," Abbott said.

If Knipstrom had been armed, the 39-year veteran agreed, he would have been forced to consider other options to keep him from leaving the shop and harming himself or others.

"Yes, the options would have changed," Abbott said.

Knipstrom remained lying on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind his back even after he was taken to hospital because he continued to struggle and scream unintelligible "jibberish."

Coroner Vincent Stancato asked several witnesses whether they had ever been advised about the risk of leaving a patient in a prone or face-down position.

Chilliwack Fire Captain Jim Clarke said a patient can breathe while lying on their stomach, if they are conscious, "but if they lose consciousness the airway can become restricted."

But Knipstrom was very conscious and did not appear to have any difficulty breathing, despite his prone position.

Clarke said if he felt the police handcuffs were affecting Knipstrom's breathing, he would have cut them off himself, if need be, because the patient's medical condition takes priority.

At the hospital, RCMP Const. Cynthia Kershaw said Knipstrom was strapped "face-down" into a bed in a "quiet room" because he was "showing signs he was still ready to fight."

But at about 4:28 p.m. he suddenly stopped breathing, she said.

"He wasn't screaming anymore. He wasn't responding. Obviously something was not OK," she said.

Doctors and nurses were able to get Knipstrom's heart beating again at 4:55 p.m. He was then transferred to Surrey Memorial Hospital where he was put on life support until he died shortly after midnight on Nov. 24.

RCMP Const. Pam Skelton said she thought about turning Knipstrom onto his back that first night at Chilliwack General Hospital, but a paramedic advised her to wait for a nurse to administer a sedative first.

She said Knipstrom's apparent pain, not any difficulty breathing, prompted her to think about turning him onto his back.

"No, I didn't see he was having difficulty breathing," she said. "It's more that he was in pain."

Skelton broke into tears when she recalled the only intelligible words she heard Knipstrom utter during his noisy struggles that night.

"I love my family, I love my family, he said it twice," she said.

The inquest continues.

Video of man who died after Tasering may be released

November 18, 2009
By Katie Mercer, Vancouver Province

VANCOUVER — The video footage of an aboriginal man who died in custody after being Tasered while hog-tied is one step closer to being released.

Clayton Alvin Willey died shortly after being arrested in July 2003 for creating a disturbance at a strip mall in Prince George, B.C.

The RCMP security footage shows Willey being Tasered repeatedly while hog-tied, falling headfirst out of a police cruiser and dragged facedown through the Prince George detachment.

David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said Tuesday that the RCMP will be meeting with the family on Nov. 30 to discuss the full video’s release.

“I got a phone call from the family’s lawyer saying that he talked to the RCMP and that . . . they would discuss the full contents of the investigative file, as well as all the video they have, and if the family agreed, they would release the videotape,” said Eby.

Willey’s sister, Bryna Willey, said she was unaware of the particulars surrounding the release and forwarded all questions to her lawyer, Simon Wagstaffe. He could not be reached for comment.

The family had previously provided the RCMP with a notarized release supporting a freedom of information request to release the video. The request was denied, with Mounties citing privacy concerns.

Grand Chief Stewart Philip, of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, who viewed what he called the “sickening” video himself, said the family has turned down an offer to view the video solely in private.

“What the family is saying is they want a complete publication of the video in its entirety,” said Phillip. “They want full disclosure.”

Eby said he believes the release of the video will put pressure on politicians to reform police investigations.

“It’s an embarrassing video, it’s a deeply disturbing video and I think it’s one that will really compromise the image of the RCMP in the eyes of the public,” said Eby. “I think it’s something they don’t need right now, and I don’t blame them for not wanting to release it, but its their legal obligation to.”

Provincial Solicitor-General Kash Heed told reporters he was confident the RCMP will respect the family’s wishes to release the footage.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Death raises questions about taser safety AKA Rick Jones you're an ASSHOLE

Since the beginning of November, THREE American citizens have DROPPED DEAD after they were tasered. But US State Representative Rick Jones INSISTS tasers are SAFE. This guy definitely qualifies for a TASER BADGE OF IGNORANCE.

November 17, 2009 5:20 PM
(NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Just how safe are tasers, in the hands of police or anyone else? It's a question that has gained new ground after the death of a man in police custody Monday night.

State Representative Rick Jones has been a passionate advocate for tasers, in particular, making them available for ordinary citizens to carry. Rep. Jones went as far as to allow himself to be tasered in the State House in 2008.

The East Grand Rapids neighborhood where Matthew Bolick was tasered by police on Monday night was calming down Tuesday after a night many will remember. Newschannel 3 spoke with members of Bolick's family who told us that there is another side to the story and are horrified by what happened.

While Bolick's death has raised question on the issue of tasers, one lawmaker says what officers did on Monday night was the right thing.

Rep. Rick Jones allowed himself to be tasered in the State House in 2008, and now the former Eaton County Sheriff is speaking out again in the wake of Bolick's death.

"Certainly I think the taser is a good instrument for a police officer to use," said Rep. Jones. "I wouldn't call it a non-lethal weapon, I would call it a less than lethal weapon."

While the investigation continues into whether the three or four taser shots he took had anything to do with Bolick's death, there's long been a push to not only put tasers into the hands of police officers, but to put a single-shot taser into the hands of just about anybody.

So far, a pair of deaths involving tasers in Michigan have put a temporary halt to the legislation.

"I believe using a taser is much safer than striking somebody with a baton and that's what was used many, many years ago," said Jones.

In the case of Matthew Bolick, he was tasered multiple times, and an investigation has begun to see if those actions were warranted.

A citizen taser has been approved in nearly all 50 states, but in the big picture, the human rights group Amnesty International says it has documented more than 350 cases in which people have died after being shocked with tasers. Leaders at that organization believe more research needs to be done to see how effective the less than lethal weapon is for law enforcement.

Rep. Jones is standing steadfast in his belief that tasers work, and when they do kill, there are usually other factors contributing to the death.

"It's normally when they have a heart full of cocaine and some illicit drugs," said Jones, "they have damaged their body and they don't react like a normal human being."

Robert Knipstrom's father tells coroner's inquest about son's death

November 17, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, The Province

The father of Robert Knipstrom broke down in tears as he unexpectedly took the stand at a coroner's inquest Tuesday.

RCMP were called to control Knipstrom at the EZE Rent-it Centre in Chilliwack on Nov. 19, 2007 after the man became distraught and refused to leave and employee-only area.

Knipstrom was pepper sprayed, struck with batons and tasered at least six times by Chilliwack RCMP. He died in Surrey Memorial Hospital five days later.

At least eight RCMP officers were handling Knipstrom when his father, also named Robert Knipstrom, responded to his son's telephone call for help and arrived at the Chilliwack business.

Three young officers, who have testified at the coroner's inquest, said they tried pepper spray and Tasers to control Knipstrom, with little effect.

An RCMP officer, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, said he emptied his pepper-spray can into Knipstrom's face and also struck him repeatedly with a baton, although he said the blows to the head that badly bloodied Knipstrom were "accidentally" inflicted.

When Knipstrom's father arrived at the EZE rent-it centre, his son was lying facedown in handcuffs, covered in blood, howling and did not respond to his father's attempts to speak to him.

Knipstrom Sr. said his son, 36 when he died, was very "sports-minded" and played baseball, soccer and even basketball, although he was "a small kid, short."

He said his son became a skilled tree-topper who had his own business for 10 years.

"He was very generous, bringing his mother flowers and was very close to all his family," Knipstrom's father said.

After his son was taken away by ambulance, Knipstrom Sr. said he prepared to drive his son's abandoned pickup away but was called immediately to hospital.

There, he and wife Jo were astonished to learn "he'd gone into cardiac arrest" and resuscitation was attempted for 28 minutes before his heart restarted.

"He was on life support," said Knipstrom's stricken father.

"He was brain-damaged. His heart wouldn't run on its own. He stayed on life support and kidney dialysis and then he died," he said, breaking down again.

Two members of Chilliwack Fire and Rescue also gave evidence Tuesday morning.

Fire Capt. Jim Clarke testified he would have taken off Knipstrom's handcuffs himself if he thought help was urgently needed, but Clarke said the man appeared to be breathing well and had "a clear airway."

Firefighter Andy Brown said that he offered Knipstrom oxygen twice but that the man became more agitated and refused help. Brown said he helped clean some of the blood off Knipstrom's head, which appeared to have minor lacerations.

RCMP lawyer Helen Roberts argued against the release of the video, which was given to reporters Monday, saying it should be released only after police, ambulance and fire officials have completed their testimony at the inquest.

The inquest is slated to continue until friday.

Knipstrom taser video released

November 17, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, The Province

A disturbing video of the arrest of a blood-covered, screaming man was screened in a coroner's court on Monday. The video of the RCMP arrest of Robert Thurston Knipstrom, who died in hospital on Nov. 24, 2007, five days after he was Tasered, pepper-sprayed and struck by police batons, was taken by the RCMP.

See the video here.

RCMP lawyer Helen Roberts opposed its release to the media, but coroner's counsel Rodrick MacKenzie noted the parents were not opposed to making the video public and coroner Vincent Stancato released it. Knipstrom, 36, is shown in the video handcuffed face-down on the floor of a Chilliwack rental shop, his face and head completely covered with blood, howling in pain, while several RCMP officers restrain him and paramedics try to help him.

The video was so disturbing that Knipstrom's parents, Bob and Jo Knipstrom, left the courtroom while it was screened. Russ Walsh, owner of the Chilliwack EZE Rent-it Centre where Knipstrom was Tasered, pepper-sprayed and struck with batons, testified Knipstrom was aggressive, although another witness said he was frightened. Walsh testified that Knipstrom, whom he knew slightly as a customer, appeared agitated, as though he had taken drugs, and tried to climb the stairs to the store's office despite repeated warnings not to do so.

"I believe the most relevant thing to Robert's reaction was that six months before, he'd been walking innocently in Rosedale with a can of gas, and police responding to a break-and-enter talked to him," said Walsh. "That didn't go well and he was Tasered at that time." Walsh said he thought Knipstrom was terrified of Tasers.

Walsh said Knipstrom was "scaring the ladies here" with erratic and aggressive behaviour that day. Knipstrom was seen by the inquest's first witness, Sherry Kassian, driving erratically in his pickup truck. Kassian, who worked in a nearby shop, phoned Walsh to warn him about the odd driving behaviour.

Walsh testified he called police after Knipstrom refused to get off the stairs and leave, and that when two RCMP officers walked over from their detachment across the road, Knipstrom was combative and aggressive. The male RCMP officer, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, testified that Knipstrom pursued him and that he emptied his pepper-spray can and fired his Taser once into Knipstrom's jacket, all with no effect.

The officer testified that he struck Knipstrom with his baton but only "accidentally" on the head. "He got up and came at [RCMP] almost zombie-like," said the officer, adding that by the time backup officers arrived, "I was totally done. I was tapped out."

Another RCMP officer then hit Knipstrom again with a Taser. B.C. Civil Liberties' executive director David Eby called the Knipstrom video "shocking and really disturbing" after viewing it in The Province newsroom, noting the video underscores the need for independent investigation of police.

"They admit they need an external body to do investigations ... the public doesn't trust them any more," noted Eby. "I don't put any stock in their accounts - it's hard to believe they did everything properly, given the blood and extent of injuries involved.

Michigan man dies after he is tasered

November 16, 2009: Matthew Bolick, 30, East Grand Rapids, Michigan

RCMP urged to release arrest tape of man who died

November 17, 2009
Mark Hume, Globe and Mail

Clayton Alvin Willey died of a heart attack several hours after police knocked him to the ground, hog-tied him, kicked him in the chest, pepper sprayed him and used a taser on him repeatedly.

Although the incident took place in 2003 and the arresting officers were cleared of any wrongdoing, an aboriginal leader and civil rights critics called yesterday for the release of an RCMP video they say shows police used excessive force.

“I had an opportunity to see an edited version of the video and I can tell you it was sickening, it was very, very difficult to watch and it stirred a deep anger within myself,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said at a news conference.

Mr. Phillip said the video shows Mr. Willey, a M├ętis, with his hands cuffed behind his back and tied to his feet, being dragged into the police station while RCMP officers repeatedly taser him.

“I was very disturbed, very emotional … in many ways it was worse than watching the Dziekanski tape,” he said, referring to a video shot at Vancouver International Airport in 2007, when RCMP officers used a taser on Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died while being arrested after making a disturbance in the arrivals area.

The Dziekanski video generated worldwide media coverage and led to a public inquiry that recommended police adopt tougher rules on the use of tasers.

“The point of this press conference is to draw public attention to this horrific incident,” said Mr. Phillip, who hopes to trigger an “outcry across this country similar to the Dziekanski case.”

David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and John Butt, a forensic pathologist, echoed Mr. Phillip's views, and said there will be public anger if people get to see the video.

The video was entered in evidence in an October, 2004, coroner's inquest, which did not find fault with the police officers. The video was brought to the attention of Mr. Phillip recently by Leonard Cler-Cunningham, a writer researching aboriginal deaths in custody.

Mr. Cler-Cunningham said Mr. Willey's family has signed an authorization asking the RCMP to release the video, but the police have declined to do so.

“The reason the RCMP in Ottawa refused to release it is because it would be a violation of Clay Willey's right to personal privacy. I've encountered this in every single aboriginal death in custody under investigation. It's insulting. It's disgusting. Do not use an individual's right to personal privacy to shield yourself from investigation,” he said, directing his comments to police.

Mr. Cler-Cunningham said Mr. Willey was treated brutally.

“I believe it meets the standard of torture,” he said. “Do you need to taser a man who is handcuffed and hog-tied, seemingly immobile and prone?”

RCMP Sergeant Tim Shields said the video is not being released because of privacy concerns, but he said police are “more than happy to share all file details with the family and first nations leaders.” The RCMP could not be reached later for comment on Mr. Cler-Cunningham's remarks.

The findings of the coroner's inquest state that several people made 911 calls to the RCMP in Prince George in July, 2003, after frightening encounters with Mr. Willey, who was reportedly armed with a knife.

The coroner's report states that when police confronted Mr. Willey, he refused to lie on the ground and, with blood and foam coming from his mouth, advanced on a female officer.

One officer drew his handgun, but put it away when he saw Mr. Willey was not armed. Police tackled Mr. Willey and one officer kicked him “in an attempt to gain ‘pain compliance.'”

Police testified they also used pepper spray and that even after he was hog-tied, Mr. Willey “continued to thrash around and attempt to free himself.”

Police said they used tasers at the cellblock in an attempt to subdue Mr. Willey.

A pathologist's report found evidence of two apparent taser burns, numerous abrasions, contusions, six broken ribs and brain swelling from a head injury.

The pathologist, D.J. McNaughton, testified that Mr. Willey died of a heart attack brought on by a cocaine overdose and said that “in his opinion the use of the taser did not contribute to Mr. Willey's death.”

Mr. Willey was arrested at about 5:15 p.m. Police called an ambulance at 5:36, after he was “touch stunned” by a taser at the jail cell. He had a heart attack in the ambulance, and was pronounced dead the next morning at 9:05.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Inquest begins into 2007 Taser death of Robert Knipstrom

November 16, 2009

A coroner's inquest began Monday into the November 2007 death of Robert Knipstrom, who was Tasered during a struggle with a rookie RCMP officer.

Knipstrom, a 36-year-old arbourist, was taken to hospital but died four days later.

Knipstrom had gone to EZ Rental in Chilliwack to return a wood chipper. The store's owner, Russ Walsh, told the inquest that Knipstrom was twitchy and erratic.

When Knipstrom refused to leave the store, police were called.

The officer who tried to arrest Knipstrom testified that Knipstrom lunged at him.

He said that he used his pepper spray, his baton and his Taser to get him under control.

"I was trying to get away from him ... he was chasing me around the store ... I was getting tired," the officer testified.

"This guy seemed bound and determined to hurt me ...I was running out of options."

The officer cannot be identified because he now works undercover.

Mike Berube, a former worker at the store, said Knipstrom did not appear aggressive to him.

"From what I saw he just wanted to get away. And the two officers just wanted to hold him down," Berube told reporters outside the hearing. "It didn't look like they were rushing him. It didn't look like he was rushing them. They were just trying to corral him."

Knipstrom was Tasered twice. Police pulled the Taser probes from his back after taking him down.

Knipstrom's father later arrived to calm his son down.

An autopsy showed the cause of death to be lack of oxygen and the drug Ecstasy.

The role the Taser played will be examined later in the inquest.

Police taser video 'worse than Dziekanski' says chief

These images were borrowed from a Facebook site set up by Clay Willey's family in his honour - see the Facebook Group "PLEASE HELP THE WILLEY FAMILY PUT A STOP TO TAZER DEATHS IN OUR COUNTRY".

November 16, 2009
By Colleen Kimmett, The Tyee

Aboriginal and civil rights groups are demanding RCMP release a video of man who died after being tasered in a police holding cell in 2003.

The video reportedly shows Clay Willey, an aboriginal man, being tasered while hog-tied on the floor of the cell at a Prince George RCMP detachment. The officers involved in the incident have not been identified.

At a press conference this morning, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said the four-minute long clip was "sickening" and "very, very difficult to watch."

"Clearly, they were trying to shut him up by using a taser."

David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said he hopes media attention will pressure RCMP to release the video. "We believe it will cause an outcry," Eby said.

Writer Leonard Cler-Cunningham, who uncovered the video during the course of a five-year investigation on aboriginal deaths in custody, brought it to the attention of Eby and Phillip about six months ago. He thanked the RCMP for making the video available to him, but said police refuse to release to the public in order to protect Willey's privacy.

"They're using the right to privacy to protect themselves," he said.

A coroner's inquest into Willey’s death conducted in October of 2004 determined that he died of a cocaine overdose. According to the report, Willey had been acting erratically in the parking lot of a Prince George mall when police picked him up. He was handcuffed and taken to the local detachment, where police said they "touch stunned" him with a Taser after he continued to struggle and kick. Less than 45 minutes passed between the time he was picked up at the mall and the time an ambulance arrived at the detachment. Willey died en route to the hospital.

Dr. John C. Butt, a specialist in forensic pathology, noted that touch stun is a less debilitating mode on the Taser gun and said it wasn't clear how many times it was deployed. He questioned why police would taser a man who was already tied up and face down, and called it a "cruel and unnecessary act."

A media relations officer for the Prince George RCMP detachment said he was not aware of any internal investigation into the officers' actions.