Inquiry into Dziekanski's Taser-related death resumes Monday
Last Updated: Sunday, March 22, 2009 | 8:04 PM PT
The inquiry into the Taser-related death of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport will resume Monday with testimony from the senior officer involved.
RCMP Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson was the officer in charge of a team of four when Robert Dziekanski was hit multiple times with a police stun gun and died on Oct. 14, 2007.
Dziekanski family lawyer Walter Kosteckyj said the testimony from the three other Mounties involved has been full of errors and misrepresentations.
"I expect more of the same. I have to, based on [the] past," Kosteckyj said. He said he thinks Robinson will be "somebody who is not prepared to step up. But we will see. It's hard to anticipate what Cpl. Robinson will have to say."
The other three officers involved in the fatal incident took their cues from Robinson on how to handle the distraught Dziekanski.
So far, his fellow officers have told the same tale, even repeating the same errors, about what Dziekanski was doing — that he was throwing things, yelling and had to be Tasered twice before being "wrestled" to the ground. All three testified that Dziekanski, who had been at the airport for nearly 10 hours and didn't speak English, resisted and ignored police commands.
Lawyer Don Rosenbloom, acting for the Polish government, said the officers can't be believed.
"I don't buy that explanation, because if one of those officers had made an erroneous statement, it's one thing, but when a second one does, a third one does, when a fourth one does, you start being troubled by the situation," Rosenbloom said.
Testimony contradicts video evidence
The officers' recollections conflict with what appears on video shot by eyewitness Paul Pritchard.
The first three Mounties have said that, after a brief interaction, Dziekanski became difficult when he tossed his hands in the air and took a few steps away. When he turned back toward the officers, Dziekanski was holding a stapler, which the officers have said made them feel threatened. That's when Const. Kwesi Millington delivered the first Taser shock.
The weapon was used five times in all, although it's not clear how many of those connected with the man.
Kosteckyj said the video clearly shows Robinson telling Dziekanski not to reach for his luggage and directing him to a nearby counter.
"In fact, he is obeying instructions and none of these police officers, up until now, can point to a single command that he did not obey," he said.
The video also shows Dziekanski had already been stunned twice when Robinson called for another jolt of the Taser.
"Hit him again! Hit him again!" Robinson can be heard shouting on the video of the fatal confrontation.
As Dziekanski lay unconscious on the floor, his hands cuffed behind his back, none of the RCMP officers were performing proper pulse and breathing checks, they have testified.
Officers admit to mistakes during initial investigation
The inquiry has also focused on inconsistencies in what the officers initially told police, and the accuracy of Robinson's initial statements is sure to be scrutinized.
The other Mounties admitted making several mistakes in their police notebooks, statements to homicide investigators and internal reports about what happened.
For example, the officers have said it took several Taser shocks before Dziekanski fell to the ground, even though the video shows he collapsed seconds after the first deployment.
One even claimed Dziekanski kept walking toward the officers with a stapler raised above his head after he was stunned.
The officers have insisted their early accounts represented their best recollections of a stressful, fast-paced event.
Robinson will be asked about his gestures to Dziekanski just before he was jolted, why he asked for another Taser shock even though Dziekanski was already on the floor and what efforts he made to revive the unconscious man.
Robinson is expected to be on the stand for a number of days.
He will be followed by ambulance attendants who were called to the scene but could not revive Dziekanski on the airport floor.
The Braidwood Inquiry was ordered following an international outcry over Dziekanski's death.
Crown prosecutors decided in December that Robinson, Millington, Const. Bill Bentley and Const. Gerry Rundel wouldn't face criminal charges, although the inquiry's final report could include findings of misconduct.With files from the Canadian Press
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