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Friday, November 26, 2010

Mother overcome by autopsy pictures

November 25, 2010
Andrea Sands, Edmonton Journal

Beverly Grimolfson began sobbing then gasping for air during a fatality inquiry after she saw autopsy pictures of her son, who died two years ago after he was repeatedly Tasered by police.

Two security officers were called in as a precaution when Grimolfson became increasingly agitated while looking through binders of inquiry material during the lunch break Thursday afternoon.

"I have to try to calm down," she said, sobbing, after seeing autopsy photos of Trevor Grimolfson, who died after violent struggle with police.

"I've just never looked at these before."

She was led out of the room in Provincial Court, where she could still be heard yelling and sobbing outside as two court security officers came in.

She returned to her seat at the front of the courtroom, where she continued crying.

"I want to ask the judge how he thought I could come here and do this ... Why didn't he let me have a lawyer? A lawyer could have helped me. That's my kid in there. I never got to see him. I don't understand the cruelty of it all."

Hands shaking violently, gasping for breath, Grimolfson was given a plastic bag to breath into, and court officials urged her to calm down before she was led out of the courtroom a second time.

Grimolfson has been representing herself during the fatality inquiry that began Monday.

Family members of those who have died are allowed to speak and ask questions at an inquiry, but provincial legislation does not provide funding for their legal representation. Beverly Grimolfson was unsuccessful in her request for funding to hire a lawyer.

Inquiry counsel Glenn Epp asked that the inquiry be adjourned until Friday morning to give Grimolfson time to recover.

She told Judge Fred Day she is convinced police used excessive force on her son.

"My son is dead and I have the right to get to the bottom of this," he said. "I truly believe that excessive force was used here."

Det. Lee Scott painted a different picture in his testimony Thursday morning.

Trevor Grimolfson struggled violently against police and seemed oblivious to repeated jolts from their Tasers, said Scott, who was a constable at the time he fought with Grimolfson during the man's drug-fuelled rampage through a pawnshop.

The inquest heard testimony this week from Alberta's chief medical examiner that Grimolfson, 38, died of excited delirium caused by high levels of the drugs ecstasy and ketamine, an animal tranquillizer. The levels of each drug in Grimolfson's body were high enough to have been fatal, Dr. Graeme Dowling said.

Scott told the fatality inquiry Thursday he thought his Taser wasn't working when he fired the device at Grimolfson on Oct. 29, 2008, while trying to subdue him in the pawnshop on Stony Plain Road.

Scott said when he entered the pawnshop the smell of bear spray hung in the air.

He said Grimolfson's skin was yellow and he was sweating profusely and flailing his arms. Scott said he fired the Taser repeatedly at Grimolfson, who was heading toward another officer at the end of a long glass counter.

"I could hear it (working), absolutely, but it wasn't doing what it was supposed to do ... He should have been on the ground. He should have been incapacitated, but he wasn't," Scott said.

"I knew I wasn't going to let him leave the pawnshop. I knew there were people outside. I knew he was going to try to kill someone. I knew he was going to try to kill Matt (the other police constable)."

Grimolfson didn't react to the Taser and didn't obey police orders to get down on the floor, said Scott.

Police wrestled Grimolfson to the floor on his stomach, where he continued to twist and fight as Scott handcuffed him.

Scott Tasered Grimolfson again. "I did that on top of his back and he didn't even flinch."

Grimolfson was spitting and chanting "OK, OK" as Scott told him to stop fighting. He didn't seem to tire despite the intense struggle, Scott said.

"He was not calming down," Scott said.

"I'd never seen anything like this before.

Police immediately called emergency medical crews and superior officers, as is policy when a Taser is deployed, Scott said.

Roughly five minutes after police got the handcuffs on him, Grimolfson lost consciousness and stopped breathing, he said.

Scott started CPR but was later told Grimolfson had died.

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