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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Constable's story evolved, lawyer says

February 12, 2011
Jana G. Pruden, Edmonton Journal

An Edmonton lawyer says a police officer's original notes -- not his subsequent testimony at a disciplinary hearing -- tell the real story of a 2002 arrest during which a teenager was repeatedly Tasered.

Const. Mike Wasylyshen, the son of former police chief Bob Wasylyshen, discharged his Taser eight times in the course of about a minute while arresting 16-year-old Randy Fryingpan.

Wasylyshen is charged with using inappropriate force during the arrest, and for allegedly hitting Frying pan in the head, causing him to lose a tooth. Wasylyshen also faces insubordination charges for violating police procedure, in part by allegedly having an unauthorized civilian with him on a ride along at the time.

The case was the subject of a police disciplinary hearing this fall, and the proceedings resumed on Friday for closing arguments from the prosecution.

Presenting officer Derek Cranna told the hearing he believes there is enough evidence to find Wasylyshen guilty on all of the disciplinary charges.

Wasylyshen's lawyer, Robert Hladun, will present his closing arguments when the hearing reconvenes next month.

The arrest happened on Oct. 5, 2002, as Fryingpan was sitting in a parked car on Abbottsfield Road with friends.

Wasylyshen responded to the scene to investigate whether the car was stolen. He got into a confrontation with Fryingpan when the drunken teen refused to get out of the car.

Testifying at the disciplinary hearing in November, Wasylyshen said he Tasered Fryingpan six times, not eight, because he contacted himself with one of the Taser strikes and another was unaccounted for. He said the Taser deployed for a complete five-second cycle only once.

Wasylyshen maintained the response was an appropriate use of force, which was in keeping with police procedure at the time.

But Cranna said that Wasylyshen's account of the event has changed through the years, and that details have changed to justify his actions.

Cranna said Wasylyshen's original notes describe only that Fryingpan pushed the officer's hands away, but in subsequent reports and proceedings Wasylyshen described being "violently pushed," or "batted away," and being hit in the arm with a closed fist.

"You can see the evolution of this over time," Cranna said, adding Wasylyshen provided details that would justify his actions.

He said Wasylyshen wasn't concerned enough about the dangers of the situation to wait for other officers, despite knowing that they would be arriving at the scene within moments.

Cranna said with eight Taser discharges in 68 seconds, Fryingpan wouldn't have had enough time to comply.

"The circumstances do not point to appropriate use of force," Cranna said. "They do not."

After the incident, then-chief Bob Wasylyshen decided no disciplinary action should be taken against any of the officers involved, but the Law Enforcement Review Board later ordered that charges be laid.

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