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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Three hits from Taser failed to subdue Delhi man

October 14, 2010
By Barbara Simpson — Delhi News-Record

HAMILTON — A Norfolk OPP sergeant zapped Jeffrey Marreel three times with a Taser in an attempt to subdue him, an inquest jury into the death of the Delhi man heard Wednesday.

The Taser was set in dry stun mode, which has been proven ineffective for people with excited delirium.

An OPP training video presented as evidence by the Crown at the John Sopinka Courthouse says operating a Taser in the dry stun mode — where the probes remain on the Taser as opposed to being fired off — is "not effective" in ensuring pain compliance for people with excited delirium.

Norfolk OPP Sgt. Dean Skelding operated his Taser in such a manner when he zapped Marreel on the neck and shoulder area, back and rear left arm on June 23, 2008. He was attempting to have Marreel comply with an order to lie flat on the ground, Skelding said.

He opted for the dry stun mode as opposed to firing off the probes for the safety of surrounding officers.

Skelding's first attempt to administer the five-second zap was unsuccessful on Marreel, who was in a crouched position on Fisher's Glen Road, the jury heard.

"He bucked me off at the one to 1.5 (seconds) one," Skelding recalled.

The next two attempts — on Marreel's back and later on his rear left arm — were administered for the full length of time. This didn't deter Marreel, who eventually ripped off Skelding's body armour.

"The whole front piece came off which made it more dangerous for me," Skelding testified.

Marreel was eventually taken to the Norfolk OPP detachment in Simcoe where officers noticed he had stopped moving as they tried to put a waist restraint on him.

Officers performed CPR while an ambulance was en route to the detachment.

Marreel, 36, was pronounced dead at Norfolk General Hospital shortly after 12 p.m. His cause of death has been ruled "acute cocaine poisoning" by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit.

A juror asked whether Norfolk OPP or Norfolk EMS made the decision to take Marreel straight to the detachment as opposed to the hospital. Skelding reiterated it was the "cooperation of the two," adding paramedics had cleared him.

"As I said, in my notes here, I have, 'EMS has no concerns,'" he said.

Skelding was unable to recall if he had informed paramedics that Marreel had been using cocaine.

"I don't recall," he said. "I had a lot going on at that time."

Skelding was concerned about Const. Ken Decloet who may have been exposed to Hepatitis C through Marreel. He also had to tend to public safety and damage to a cruiser.

While Marreel displayed erratic behaviour, he was able to state his name and the drug he was on, noted lawyer William MacKenzie, who is representing the OPP Association. MacKenzie suggested this reasoning ability may not have been consistent with excited delirium.

OPP Sgt. Liam Brennan, who trains officers in the OPP's western region, agreed with this suggestion. He also stated Skelding did an "excellent job" and he would have "done the same thing" at that scene.

Dr. Jack Stanborough, western regional supervising coroner who is hearing the inquest, was taken aback by this statement.

"I'm a little surprised as an instructor that you would have handled the situation the same way," he said.

Many of Marreel's behaviours — paranoia, incoherent speech and unexpected strength — are listed as symptoms of excited delirium, he pointed out.

"It sounds an awful like what I've heard over the last two days," he said.

Medical testimony is expected to be delivered in the inquest today.

Barbara Simpson
519-426-3528, ext. 112

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