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Friday, August 26, 2011

Family finds closure in fatality inquiry of man who died after being Tasered

August 26, 2011
Daryl Slade, Calgary Herald

The family of a man who died after being jolted by police with a stun gun during an arrest nearly three years ago walked away from a fatality inquiry Friday with a better understanding of what happened.

However, although they now know for sure Gordon Bowe was afflicted with cocaine-induced excited delirium syndrome, they say they still are not totally clear about why he died on Nov. 1, 2008, after allegedly breaking into a home on 42nd Street S.E.

“It answered a lot of questions for me,” Robert Bowe of Vancouver, the father of the deceased, said outside court. “I still have some doubts about some of the things that happened, but I don’t put any blame on the police officers or anybody else involved.

“Some of the procedures and training (of police) may be inadequate when it comes to this type of thing.”

Robert Bowe said he still believes the use of a stung gun should be a last resort and, if possible, officers should avoid trying to restrain someone in such a heightened state for as long as possible.

“Let it run it’s time out and if the person doesn’t survive, there’s even more evidence to try to help educate people,” he said. “I feel good about the outcome of this (evidence). It’s just a sad thing my son happened to be one of the very few.”

He said it was more likely his son, in the state he was in, was not trying to hurt anyone, but it was a chemical imbalance and he was fighting for his life.

It was determined after the fact that Gordon Bowe, 30, suffered from excited delirium and that the stun gun deployed by the city police officer, one of four officers trying to restrain him, did not play any role in his death.

The devastated father also warned all young people that they should never take illicit drugs even once, because they are then susceptible to excited delirium.

John Chernenkoff, the deceased’s father-on-law, said he feels a lot better after hearing the evidence at the inquiry, but said he is not happy with the discrepancies between the evidence of the police officers and the report by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.

“What happened in this incident, as far as the outcome, is still up in the air,” he said. “We will be making some recommendations. We’ve drawn up a few, but we want to finalize them before presenting them to the judge.”

Mary Erschbamer, Gordon Bowe’s stepmother, said she was happy to find “he was not a criminal, that this was an illness.”

Dr. Christine Hall of Victoria, who has done extensive research on excited delirium for the past decade, told court that it would be beneficial to better understand the rare illness. She added it would be beneficial if police agencies keeping track of all such in-custody incidents were to provide better data to herself and other researchers.

Currently, she said, they are only scratching the surface and still face great opposition from critics in the medical field.

She told Crown lawyer Jo-Ann Burgess said she wished more physicians were involved in assisting the study, but it’s a tough sell because of the level of personal criticism she faces from a skeptical portion of the medical field.

“It’s difficult to engage physicians in a controversial topic, but if we had better data and better understanding scientifically, that would be much easier,” Hall testified.

“Also, just for people to realize we’re talking about a very, very small proportion of people, as we understand at the moment. So changing things isn’t rapid, but we need to follow it. . . . This notion that it’s all a giant coverup and it’s all a big conspiracy theory, we’re really ignoring the medicine.”

Robert Bowe said he was pleased with the studies Dr. Hall is doing on the illness now and will continue in the future.

“She’ll possibly have some recommendations to have better procedures for the future to stop deaths when police encounter this situation,” he said.

Provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux invited all interested parties — the family, Calgary Police Service, Taser International, Alberta Health Services and Emergency Medical Services — to provide suggested recommendations to her by Oct. 31.

She will then file a report outlining the evidence and recommendations, if any.


Anonymous said...

Does the victim have proper legal council?

Reality Chick said...

I would say no, the family was not well represented, if at all. There is no funding for families and so, they likely could not afford to have proper legal counsel. Even though their own tax dollars would have been funding the lawyers for the other side. If they had had proper legal counsel, the outcome would have been quite different.