An inquest into the death of Michael Langan, a Winnipeg teenager who died after being shocked by a police stun gun, heard testimony today from those who witnessed a break-in that prompted the confrontation between Langan and police.
Langan was 17 years old when on July 22, 2008, he was subdued by a stun gun during a confrontation with police officers in a back lane in the city's core.
He was admitted to hospital in critical condition and died shortly afterwards.
- 'Nobody deserves to die that way,' dad says of teen hit with Taser
- Winnipeg teen's death after zap from Taser 'tragic event:' police chief
Officers were searching for a robbery suspect at the time of the incident. Police have claimed that Langan was holding a knife and he refused to put it down when ordered to do so.
As the inquest got underway on Monday morning, Hartley Klapman, a Notre Dame Avenue business owner, testified that Langan broke into his car on the day of the incident to steal a pair of binoculars.
Following a brief confrontation in the parking lot, Langan gave back the binoculars and fled on foot, said Klapman, who described the teen as looking agitated and erratic and possibly under the influence of drugs.
Langan was "jumping around in an agitated state," much like a boxer, Klapman said.
Klapman testified that as an employee called 911, he followed Langan in his car for several blocks to William Avenue, where the teen produced a knife, waved it around, and yelled, "Are you trying to kill me?"
The inquest was shown surveillance video footage of the chase before Langan's confrontation with police. The knife that the teen was allegedly carrying at the time was also shown in court as evidence.
A paramedic and a police officer are also expected to testify at the inquest. The first phase is expected to last several weeks.
Lawyers representing Taser International, the company that manufactures the stun guns, were present as the inquest got underway.
'I want the truth,' says mother
Langan's parents do not have standing at the inquest, but their lawyer is asking the court to reconsider.
"I don't want nobody to forget about my son, Michael Langan, because he should be here right now," Langan's mother, Sharon Shymko, told CBC News on Sunday.
"I want the truth about why did the police Taser my son. Why did that have to happen that way? It didn't have to happen that way."
Shymko said in the years since Langan's death, no one has answered the family's questions about what happened and what could have been done differently.
Both she and Langan's father, Brian Minchin, have said they believe police used excessive force in the teen's case.
"I don't know what to expect from this inquest," Shymko said.
"I have a lot to look forward to, and a lot I want to listen to, but the bottom point is that the police shouldn't overreact with their Taser guns."
Shymko filed a lawsuit in 2010 against the City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Police Service and Taser International. The lawsuit is still pending, she said.