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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Four officers fought to subdue man in tragic struggle

June 15, 2011
Daryl Slade, Calgary Herald

CALGARY — Police had no alternative but to use physical force to subdue a man who was combative in resisting arrest, one of four officers who struggled with him at a southeast home testified at a fatality inquiry on Wednesday.

Const. Aron Johnston said it was believed that Gordon Walker Bowe, who allegedly broke into the unoccupied home on Erin Meadows Close on Nov. 1, 2008, was in a state of excited delirium.

“It was like bull wrestling ... he had incredible strength,” Johnston told lawyer Chad Babiuk, who represents Bowe’s relatives. “I’ve never experienced anything like it.

“Excited delirium has been recognized for 25 years. The best example I can use to describe it is ‘an adrenalin overdose.’ ”

Bowe, 40, was Tasered by one of the officers and died later at hospital, although it was subsequently determined by the medical examiner and the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team that the Taser played no role in his death.

Court heard earlier he had consumed cocaine prior to the incident.

Johnson said he never saw the Taser being used, but did see the stun gun laying on the floor by the door after the struggle, picked it up and put it into his pocket.

He said he and his partner were about the fourth police car to arrive at the home that night.

Johnson said he looked in through a basement window into the dark bedroom and saw what looked like an intense struggle between Bowe and other officers.

“The officers were challenging someone to stop resisting and show his hands,” Johnston told Crown lawyer Cynthia Hykaway. “They were trying to get him to co-operate and restrain him. They were almost pleading with him to stop fighting.”

The officer said he entered the home and joined the other three officers.

They soon got Bowe to his knees, but he wasn’t giving up.

“I thought the officers were losing grip on the fight, so I kicked him, jumped on top of him and held him. It was like wrestling. I held him tight.”

Johnston said the suspect continued to wriggle and kick, trying to break free, then suddenly “the movements of his body were less and less” and after 15 seconds he stopped resisting.

The constable looked up and saw fellow officers Dave Stewart and Stefan Van Tassel were pouring sweat and breathing heavily.

It was only then, he said, that the rest of the house was checked for other people and EMS personnel who had been waiting outside the home were summoned to come inside.

When asked by Babiuk why the paramedics were not called in earlier, so they would be available immediately after Bowe was subdued, Johnston said they could not come in while a struggle was ensuing and the house was not cleared to ensure no other suspects were inside.

“We would never call EMS into a scene we don’t feel is safe. It was a fast-paced situation when we have someone who has committed a break and enter to a house and we don’t know if anybody else is in there,” he answered.

“I’d find it extremely difficult to have medical personnel standing behind us when there was a struggle with Mr. Bowe. Having medical personnel in the room when there is a major struggle would be dangerous.”

The inquiry before provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureaux wraps up later today (Wednesday), the resumes on Aug. 24.

The judge in a fatality inquiry cannot find fault, but can make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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