Use of Taser against Robert Dziekanski not justified, inquiry report concludes

The Canadian Press ~ The News
Published on June 18, 2010

A public inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death has concluded that the officers who confronted him at Vancouver's airport were not justified in using their Taser, and that their explanations for their brief and tragic confrontation with him were "patently unbelievable."
Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood said the officers could not have, as they have claimed, reasonably perceived Dziekanski was a threat when he picked up a stapler during the confrontation at Vancouver's airport in October 2007.
He says that explanation is a rationalization after the fact.
"This tragic case is, at its heart, a story of shameful conduct by a few officers," Braidwood said Friday.
Braidwood said Dziekanski's death, and the witness video of his final moments, "shocked and repulsed people around the world."
The commissioner addressed Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, directly.
"I can only say to you that I hope these findings and recommendations will give some feeling of satisfaction at least in a small way, arising out of these things, particularly in light of the ordeal you have suffered," he said.
The inquiry report makes eight recommendations, including an independent body to investigate the police in B.C.
Braidwood said some of the RCMP reports on the incident were "factually inaccurate, but not intentionally misleading," however he pointed out that the public reaction was "volatile."
That suggests a lack of confidence in the RCMP, he said, in recommending the civilian investigative body in B.C. to oversee police-related incidents.
The report follows an exhaustive public inquiry that spent much of last year hearing from more than 90 witnesses about what happened the night Dziekanski died.
Dziekanski, who didn't speak English, arrived in Vancouver after a long flight from Poland and spent 10 hours in the airport before he eventually cleared customs.
Unable to find his mother or communicate with anyone around him, Dziekanski began throwing furniture in the airport's international terminal.
Several onlookers called 911 and one witness started filming the scene on his video camera.
The four RCMP officers were told by a 911 operator to expect a drunk man throwing furniture. Within seconds of approaching Dziekanski, one of them fired the Taser, pulling the trigger five times in total, mostly after Dziekanski had fallen to the ground.
Prosecutors in B.C. eventually cleared the Mounties of any criminal wrongdoing, saying they acted reasonably in the circumstances.
Last December, the RCMP complaints commissioner released a report that found the officers' use of the Taser was "inappropriate" and their explanations to justify their actions weren't credible.
Dziekanski's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit last year against the RCMP and others, but settled the case this past April after receiving a public apology from the force and an undisclosed financial settlement.
Braidwood released a report last summer from another set of hearings about Taser use in general by law enforcement agencies in B.C. That report concluded that stun guns can kill and their use should be restricted, but they are a necessary tool for police.
Those findings are now the subject of a court challenge by Taser International, which is scheduled to be heard in B.C. Supreme Court next month.
The provincial government has spent about $5 million on the two-part inquiry, which was ordered amid the public outrage that followed Dziekanski's death and the release of the now-infamous amateur video of the police confrontation.