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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Taser killed Ontario man: SIU

December 7, 2010
CBC News

A stun gun killed an Ontario man with schizophrenia last June, but no criminal charges will be laid against the officer who used the weapon, Ontario's Special Investigations Unit has concluded.

On June 24, two Ontario Provincial Police officers were dispatched to a group home in Collingwood, Ont., where they tried to arrest to Aron Firman, who they say turned combative, elbowed one officer in the face and was then hit with the electric shot by the other officer.

"The Taser is characterized as a less lethal or intermediate weapon both in the OPP operator recertification material and the use of force model," SIU director Ian Scott said in a release. "However, in this incident, the Taser's deployment in my view caused Mr. Firman's death."

Scott concluded that the officers had the authority to arrest Firman for assault and that there were "no reasonable grounds" to charge the officer who used the Taser on the 27-year-old with a criminal offence.

The "officer could have reasonably thought that the Taser deployment would not be lethal based upon his training," he said. "In these circumstances, and in light of Mr. Firman's demonstrated degree of aggression, I am of the opinion that the Taser's deployment was not excessive, notwithstanding the fact that it caused Mr. Firman's demise."

Firman's father, Marcus Firman, said the officers made things worse that night. His son struggled with life, taking pills to control voices in his head, smoking marijuana and having brushes with the law.

"Aron was obviously going through some sort of crisis, but at the time they entered there he was actually sitting down and they were able to ask him some questions," he said. "But they actually escalated it by threatening him with jail — actually telling him he was going to go to jail. He reacted to that … and he was Tasered … which killed him."

A post-mortem report by Ontario's chief forensic pathologist on June 26 indicated Firman died from "cardiac arrhythmia precipitated by electronic control device deployment in an agitated man."

Firman's is only the second case in Canada where a medical examiner has blamed a Taser for sparking heart failure.

Following the SIU's report, Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Dave Ross said his force has no plans to stop using Tasers.

"Not at this particular time, but again there is likely to be an inquest," Ross said. "We'll participate fully with the inquest and look forward to any recommendations they may have."

A mandatory coroner's inquest will be held in Firman's case, according to a spokesman at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

"We will await the results and recommendations of the inquest," Stuart McGetrick said in an email.

"In the meantime, the ministry has in place a use-of-force guideline that sets out the procedures to be followed when a Conducted Energy Weapon is used, including circumstances for use, limitations, medical considerations, reporting and accountability, and equipment control," he said. "That guideline remains in effect."

The SIU is an independent civilian agency that investigates cases of serious injury, sexual assault or death involving police.

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