May 7, 2011
Petti Fong, Toronto Star
VANCOUVER—The RCMP officer who fired the Taser at Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport will plead not guilty to perjury charges, his lawyer said Saturday.
Nearly four years after the fatal encounter between Dziekanski and four Mounties, perjury charges are recommended against the officers.
An earlier RCMP investigation into the officers’ actions led crown counsel to determine potential criminal charges for manslaughter or assault with a deadly weapon would unlikely lead to a conviction.
But an independent investigation by a special prosecutor appointed by the provincial government late Friday recommended charges of perjury against the four officers.
Ravi Hira, the lawyer for Const. Kwesi Millington, the Mountie who fired the Taser, said the recommended charges were unexpected.
“Naturally my client is disappointed that the special prosecutor is proceeding with the charge,” Hira said Saturday. “He will be pleading not guilty and he will be answering the evidence as it unfolds.”
Special prosecutor Richard Peck concluded following his investigation that pursuing charges related to the physical interaction between Dziekanski and the four officers on Oct. 14, 2007 which led to the Taser being fired would not be successful.
But Peck did recommend charges of perjury against Consts. Millington, Gerry Rundel, Bill Bentley and Cpl. Monty Robinson. The maximum penalty, which is extremely rare, is 14 years for a conviction.
Each of the four officers at the public inquiry testified under oath that they felt physically threatened by Dziekanski, 40, who was unarmed.
In his report of the inquiry’s findings released last year, Commissioner Thomas Braidwood found that the officer who fired the Taser was not justified in using the weapon and all of the officers offered “unbelievable after-the-fact rationalizations.” The officers made “deliberate misrepresentations for the purpose of justifying their action.”
The retired judge also said he disbelieved the officers’ claims that there was no discussion among them about the incident before being questioned by internal homicide investigators within the RCMP.
Braidwood said Dziekanski, who did not speak English, was compliant and did not move toward any of the officers. He concluded the officers did not honestly believe they were being attacked when the decision was made to fire the Taser.
Millington, who now works for an Ontario detachment, testified that the officers had to wrestle Dziekanski to the ground when video showed that he fell after the first shot was fired from the Taser.
The incident was captured on video taken by bystander Paul Pritchard. It showed the RCMP officers had fired the Taser within 30 seconds of first arriving at the scene of a 911 call about a disturbance in the international arrivals area at the airport.
Dziekanski was on his first-ever flight arriving in Vancouver from Poland. His mother Zofia Cisowski was to meet him at the airport. But because of miscommunications, Dziekanski and his mother never found each other and he was left stranded for nearly 10 hours without any assistance.
The RCMP has apologized to Cisowski and given her an undisclosed financial settlement.
In a statement, Cisowski said the RCMP should not have investigated itself.
“It has been a long and painful ordeal over the last three-and-a-half years of delay and misinformation by the RCMP,” Cisowski said. “I hope that justice will finally be achieved in the death of my son.”
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Saturday, May 07, 2011
May 7, 2011