You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

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."

No comments: