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Monday, November 22, 2010

Two moms whose sons died after being Tasered by police lobby against stun guns

November 22, 2010
John Cotter, The Canadian Press

EDMONTON - The mothers of two men who died after being Tasered by police say they are forming a national group that will work to ban the use of electronic stun guns.

Zofia Cisowski, mother of Robert Dziekanski, made the pledge Monday outside a fatality inquiry into the death of an Edmonton man who was zapped with police Tasers a year after her own son died in Vancouver at the hands of RCMP.

Cisowski said it was painful to sit beside Bev Grimolfson at the inquiry as she asked questions about her son Trevor's death.

"I just want to support Bev because my son was Tasered at Vancouver International Airport," Cisowski said as she stood beside Grimolfson outside court.

"I am very frustrated because it reminded me of my son's death, struggling on the floor with his life."

Grimolfson said she is grateful for Cisowski's help. Together, they say they hope to make police more accountable in such deaths.

"I feel that there are a lot of questions that need to be asked," Grimolfson said.

"I was not allowed any funding for a lawyer so I had to come and stick up for my son by myself. I intend to get to the bottom of this."

Trevor Grimolfson, 38, died after Edmonton police shot him with a Taser several times on Oct. 29, 2008. A government investigation determined that Grimolfson was so violently out of control as he smashed up a pawn shop that officers were justified in firing at least three Taser darts into him, jolting his chest with numbing electric shocks.

When he finally fell to the ground, police handcuffed him and placed a spit mask over his face. Another officer also zapped him in the neck with a hand-held Taser.

After a few minutes, Grimolfson lapsed into unconsciousness until paramedics arrived. The former resident of Selkirk, Man., was pronounced dead soon after arrival in hospital.

The medical examiner said Grimolfson suffered from a heart condition and was extremely high on potentially lethal doses of ketamine and ecstasy. Cause of death was listed as excited delirium, a controversial term that has been linked to people who have died after being zapped by stun guns.

Last year, Alberta government investigators announced that no police officers would face criminal charges in Grimolfson's death.

Dr. Graeme Dowling, Alberta's chief medical examiner, reiterated his findings Monday as he testified at the inquiry.

When it was Grimolfson's turn to ask questions, she barraged Dowling: "Was he was aware that torturers use electrical devices in dictatorships? Did he know that Tasers have been used to subdue women and children in other countries?"

Judge Fred Day ruled that some of her questions were beyond the scope of the inquiry, which cannot find blame but works to glean information to prevent future deaths.

But he gave her latitude as she questioned Dowling on the public health risks associated with police use of Tasers.

"I found no evidence in this case that it was the cause of death," he replied. "I see no evidence of that."

More than 25 people have died in Canada after being stunned by Tasers.

The U.S. company that makes the devices points out that they have never directly been proven to have caused a death in Canada.

Cisowski said she will continue attending the fatality inquiry this week to give moral support to Grimolfson. She knows firsthand that such fact-finding takes time. She is still waiting for British Columbia to decide whether the four Mounties involved in the death of her son will be charged.

"We will work together to make something better for mothers like Bev and me and other mothers," she said.

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