Interview with Paul Pritchard
The full transcript of Darrow MacIntyre's interview with Paul Pritchard, the man who videotaped the RCMP Taser incident at the Vancouver airport that left Robert Dziekanski dead.
Paul Pritchard Interview with Darrow MacIntyre from Saturday, November 3, 2007.
DM: Tell us why you were at the airport in the first place?
PP: Funny story but I was coming back from China, a long flight from Hong Kong. I had a layover in San Francisco where I accidently missed my connecting flight. Got on a later flight in San Francisco that night, got me to Vancouver but I’d missed the ferry back to Victoria so I was just doing an airport sleep, ‘til the morning.
DM: So how long were you there for? What time did you arrive?
PP: Well I arrived in Vancouver Internaltional Airport at around, in between 9:30 or 10:00.
DM: And you were going to be there for?
PP: And the first bus to the ferry left at 5... 5 in the morning.
DM: So basically you had 7 or 8 hours to kill?
PP: 7 or 8 hours to kill yeah.
DM: So what were you doing?
PP: People watching for the first couple hours. About 12 o’clock I started to nod off and I tried to make a little bed and put my hoodie over and tried to get a couple hours of sleep.
DM: So at what point did this whole thing with Robert begin? and what was the first thing that made you aware something was going on?
PP: It was... had to be right around midnight... maybe a little bit after midnight. I’d just nodded off and it’s what kinda woke me up was just some banging on the window. There was a guy, kind of a passenger who was trying to get back into the airport... And I kind of made a comment "oh why is this guy trying to keep me up" and I tried to go back to sleep, and he just kept banging. There was another passenger sitting across from me... and he was smiling at me and he kept looking behind him. And it was about 5 minutes of this before I finally stood up and said you know... actually it was when another guy came up to him and tried to get him to stop doing it...
DM: ...just some person in the airport or...?
PP: ...ya it was somebody I think who worked for the airport I think... he had like a namebadge on. I think he was leaving. He was with his wife, I think he was leaving, but he said, "You cant do that. Theres nobody in there," and that’s when we found out he was a foreigner. "Stop banging. There’s nobody in there. Stop doing it, there’s no one on the other side. You can’t do that. Stop doing it." And he went to try and talk to him and that’s when we found out he couldn’t speak english. He was trying to explain what he was doing and the guy said "Ok," finally, "I’ll go and find someone from the other side to talk to you," and he disappeared. And that’s when we stood up and went and got a better seat and started tuning in.
DM: So you woke up to the sound of banging, where were you at that time? Were you over by that tourism bureau?
PP: I was right by that... yeah I was right across from there. I was on the seats closest to the entrance from the outside.
DM: Right, but facing that doorway...?
PP: ...right, facing that tourist area and that door.
DM: So he was banging for quite a while then?
PP: Ya, it was five minutes of banging. Maybe... maybe... yelling a little bit. But just banging... and when someone tried to help him it got him a little more agitated and he just started banging louder. And he was kind of doing a fake... like he would do it.... and the guy would be like "don’t do it" and he’d put his hand down. Then the guy would turn around and bang even louder.
DM: So it seemed like he thought there was someone in there?
PP: He was obviously trying to get to someone to talk to someone who worked at the airport. There was nobody around, we just thought he was.... we didn’t know what he was doing. We just thought he was... it was really odd behaviour... he was just trying to go through the doors. It turns out another... another umm citizen who it turns out was a chauffeur, tried to come up and help him saying, "You can’t be doing that. I have a flight arriving here with passengers on it that I have to pick up." By this point, [Robert] had taken all his suitcases and put them up against the glass doors and made this baracade of suitcases in a line across the door. So the guy was going, "There’s a flight arriving in a half hour, fourty-five minutes...You’ve got to get out of the way." You know he’s right in the entrance way, "You’ve got to get out of there." And that’s when the agitation levels got pretty high, because they’re both trying to talk to each other, but they both didn’t speak the language. This is when it started getting a little out of control.
DM: Just to be clear, this is that area that when you come out of customs those doors slide open and you walk out and there’s those stantions there..?
PP: ... this is that area... Right... Right...
DM: He’s trying to get back in?
PP: He’s trying to get back in.... He’s on the lobby side and I guess when there’s no flights those doors lock. So he was trying to get back in.
DM: I had never heard about the bags being lined up against the door. Did it seem like he was trying to baracade them or just keep....?
PP: No, he barricaded the door just with his four bags or whatever he had. This is why this behaviour is so odd, we were like, "What is he doing?"
DM: So then his agitation level’s going up as he’s talking to this chauffeur guy?
PP: Right and the chauffeur is getting more agitated as well because he’s going, ok this guy isn’t understanding me. And the chauffeur guy ended up saying, "I’m gonna go get somebody, I’m getting security." It ended up he had a security card for some reason and swiped him through. So [robert] then... the doors opened and he got through, brought his suitcases in. And then he put a chair in between the doors. This is really strange because the doors are trying to shut, and he was trying to shut the doors behind him, and he was yelling at this point and just kind of losing control I guess. So it was at one point where he opened the door again and he looked out at us or to the lobby anyways and he had his hand out in the air and he’s yelling a word in polish. He’s just yelling this word. And you could see now he was very, very sweaty, very flustered and very agitated. He was... very odd behaviour. It was at this point where we said why... I turned to the guy next to me and I said "Why aren’t I filming?" And he said, "Oh you have a camera?" and I said "Yeah." That’s when I went and grabbed the camera from my bag.
DM: And started shooting?
PP: And started shooting.
DM: How many people were sitting in that area roughly and did he look tired... initially what did he look like? Also, I’m unlcear. was it the chauffeur who swiped him in so he could get back in? Just kind of took pitty on him or something?
PP: Yup... umm he was getting pretty angry. He was trying to help at first, he was trying to figure out what language, but I mean he was talked to a guy who doesn’t speak english and he’s got his passengers just arriving. And at the end it kind of got where he was starting to yell at him and it was a confrontation that kind of happened and then he swiped him in and took off to get security or... something.
DM: But you don’t know why he would swipe in him in?
PP: No idea.
DM: And he jammed the door open with a chair?
PP: Yeah, so I mean he got in first then he was trying to shut the door behind him. Then he ended up opening it again. Then he tried to put a door in between the glass then he took it away. Then he tried to shut it again. Then he was just walking back and fourth, pacing.
DM: So what was the scene in the lobby area? How many people? Was everybody paying attention?
PP: By this point everybody is paying attention. Everybody is trying to help him as well. There was a couple of ladies that tried to help him, tried to figure out what language he was speaking. We were guessing it was Russian, someone there spoke Italian, trying to figure out what language. Woman were going up to him trying to help him, trying to talk to him, but he didn’t speak a word of english.
DM: And how did he react like when the two women went up to him, what was his reaction?
PP: Umm, just non-responsive. Just kind of in his own world. Just... it’s not like he was having a conversation with them, he was just doing his own thing. There was a phone right beside those entrance doors, where the girls read it and said, "Ok! We can get a translater through here!" and they tried to phone and couldn’t get through or the phone wasn’t working. There was another phone by where I was standing that calls security and they called a couple times. And the timeline here is about a half an hour before I started filming.
DM: So from the time he woke you up with the banging and the confrontation with the chauffeur?
PP: Right... about 25 - 30 minutes and I started filming when he got inside and started acting really strange. That’s when I started filming.
DM: When you say acting really strange, did it seem like he was delusional?
PP: Delusional is a good word. I mean it wasn’t common behaviour. I mean it wasn’t dangerous toward us. At no point did we fear him in any way. Like I said, women were going right up to him and talking to him trying to calm him down. I mean he wasn’t.... it wasn’t violent behaviour. It was just really, really strange behaviour. Like once he was in, he was picking up a chair like he was going to throw it into the glass, but then he’d put it down. And he’d pick the keyboard and he’d put it down he’d pick up the computer. We actually didn’t think he would actually break anything. He just kept picking things up and walking back and forth, yelling, talking to himself.
DM: So kind of like we’ve all seen homeless people in the street or skitsophrenic people who are in their own world, was it kind of like that?
PP: He was definately in his own world, yes.
DM: So then what happened after that?
PP: I started filming. I filmed, the timing for me is off... I’m trying to think of how long I actually filmed, but I filmed I would say around eight to twelve minutes say to be safe of him behind the doors just walking back and forth. Of him coming out, looking out and picking up a chair and putting it down. It went on for about ten minutes and thats why I stopped filming. He wasn’t doing anything. Nothing was happening, it was just the same behavior. Put the camera down for a little bit, save the battery. Five minutes later I flicked on the film again. Security still hadn’t come, we’d called, I didn’t call but a couple other passengers there, called two or three times. A few other people had actually left to try to find security themselves. So I put the camera back on and it was right away actually that security finally came, two security officers in yellow jackets came running up. And he started yelling something like "Policimo, policimo," I guess whatever the polish word for police is. Security came up to the door and that’s when he finally... he threw the keyboard down or the computer down and he started breaking something. And security stopped at the door, they didn’t go through, wasn’t sure what they were supposed to do. Uhhh within a minute, cops were right behind, police arrived right after security. And as the police arrived, one of the officers, we very clearly heard it said, " Can I taser him, should I use the taser?" as they were running. The clear answer was "Yes." And they came and they hopped over that railing. And these were big police officers, they were big boys running in. So I’m filming them coming in and they go through the doors and right away they flush him out from behind the desk. They kind of make a triangle around him and they flush him out behind the desk. And they follow him to the other side of the desk and thats when they shot him with the taser.
DM: So you clearly heard them say can we taser him?
DM: And how many police officers were there?
DM: Three police officers, and we’ve heard there were four...
PP: I think he came later, but I know initially three ran in.
DM: And they were all fairly big burly guys?
PP: They were big boys, yeah.
DM: Did they make any attempt to talk to him at all?
PP: Whatever they said, it happened within 5-10 seconds. How much did they try to talk to him. They obviously talked to him enough to know he didn’t speak english. And he was making no physical threat to them. He tried to get away almost,
DM: He tried to get away...?
PP: Yeah there’s that desk right behind that door. They made a triangle and he went behind that desk and as soon as he got to this other desk, that’s where they came around So it was 10 seconds, 15 seconds after police arrived. They ran in, there was no walking, they ran in opened the doors, used the taser.
DM: And at that point was he waiving a chair or anything like that?
PP: No, not for the police.
DM: Nothing at all...?
PP: Mmm mmm (head shaking no)
DM: What happened after they used the taser?
PP: Well they shot him with it and I’m unfamilliar with the taser, so I’m looking through my camera screen and he’s got two metal rods or prongs or metal wires sticking out of him. I didn’t think it was a taser and I thought "What did they shoot him with?" And he’s screeming at this point and he takes a couple steps. He’s flicking his arm trying to get it out of him. And all of a sudden you hear this electric pulse go pop pop pop pop. He starts screeming and that’s when he hit the ground. You hear pop pop pop pop and he’s just on the ground screeming. All three of the officers jumped on him, obviously trying to put handcuffs on him and subdue him and there was a struggle on the ground for a minute. It looked like they were having problems keeping him under control or he was convulsing or something.
DM: So did it seem to you like he was struggling or convulsing?
PP: I couldn’t tell, a little bit of both maybe. I mean he was screeming loud. He was on his back and he was shaking. But there was three officers on him, I think they were just struggling to put the handcuffs on him.
DM: Can you describe that pop pop pop noise? Was it when they shot it or after?
PP: I know the metal prongs were in him first before any noise. And he wasn’t screeming that loud and he was trying to get it off. As he was doing that, all of a sudden you heard this you know it’s like when you touch the microwave or the TV and you hear that pop sound, but very, very loud. And I know that showed up on the camera as well. But you could hear that pop pop pop pop, like numerous pops.
DM: And as soon as you heard those pops he hit the ground?
PP: He was on the ground, yeah.
DM: At that point he’s still screeming?
PP: He’s screeming on the ground yeah, more so....
DM:...So he’s conscious...?
PP: More so... yup. So, the whole struggle of getting the handcuffs on, it was a minute anyway. And then there was no movement and that’s when we all thought ok maybe this has turned into something serious. I’m not familiar with tasers again, so I thought maybe you just pass out, maybe you get a jolt and you go unconscious. I thought maybe that was all part of it. It was at this point I have the camera still going for a couple minutes of him not moving, one of the officers jumped up and said code rode. And he ran out of the room and thats when I went "Oh, this is actually serious," what happened. Medics arrived another 8 minutes after that. As soon as medics came in, the first thing is they checked his vitals and right away took out the plastic mouth piece ripped off his shirt and started giving him CPR.
DM: And he’s got handcuffs on at this point?
PP: I dont know...
DM: You don’t know....
PP: No. I’d imagine they took the handcuffs off.
DM: So you didn’t hear the paramedics say can you take the handcuffs off?
DM: Did you see the cuffs on him at any point?
PP: I never saw the handcuffs on, but I know that’s what they were trying to do. But I never actually saw handcuffs on.
DM: Just to back up a bit then. He’s got the taser darts in his arm and you hear the pop pop pop clearly he’s been tasered now and he’s on the ground screeming, did they apply the taser again?
PP: I couldn’t see. I’m looking through a camera screen, I couldn’t see.
DM: As far as you know it was just the one, darts are in his arm and you hear a pop pop pop?
PP: Yeah, but you know I thought it came out. So maybe they did taser him again because when he’s flicking it, I thought it came out. Or maybe they tasered him on the ground again. Because I’ve heard the number two, that they tasered him twice, so maybe they did use the other taser on him as well.
DM: So he’s on the ground after he’s been tasered and hes screeming, what did it sound like? Did it sound like he was in pain or angry?
PP: It sounded like he was in pain. Definately in pain.
DM: So the paramedics come and they rip the shirt off, then what?
PP: Just right away started giving him CPR, and they gave him CPR for 15 minutes, a long time. I wasn’t filming any of this, at this point we’re all just feeling sick to our stomach. There’s quite a crowd now and we’re all just pretty distraut about it.
DM: What was going through your mind?
PP: At that point it was... I’ve just seen a man die. 20 minutes before it was just a man, it was entertainment, I was just filming a man go crazy at the airport. (pause) When I saw the point where I could see the colour in his face change, that was the point where we turned away. I mean there was women there and everybody was looking and they couldn’t watch. Most of the people left and it was just yeah... kinda just hit home at that point.
DM: It’s been a pretty big sensational story, but what you’re describing sounds pretty horific. I mean you must go over in your mind a lot. Does it bother you at all?
PP: It bothered me at that moment. And then I’m on two days of no sleep and long travel days, it kinda really didn’t hit me. I still... left at five, took the bus to the ferry. and I still hadn’t slept in so long. I got home and explained it to my dad and wasn’t even really talking. I was kind of like yeah yeah this thing happened, and it kind of just didn’t hit me until the next day. I was watching the news you know and it kinda started to sink in. I saw an interview with his mother and I just watched her crying going "What happened? I don’t even know what happened." She was balling on TV and that’s when it sunk in that this man didn’t need to die. It didn’t need to happen, there’s so many things that could have happened to prevent this, you know.
DM: What do you mean he didn’t need to die?
PP: He didn’t need to die. Number one, if security would have come right away or if there was secrity there, they would have calmed him down, or taken him to the right people. They would have figured something out. But no airport staff was around for half an hour of this behaviour. I mean, this is an international airport. No staff anywhere? It’s midnight and there’s passengers everywhere, where’s the staff? So if security would’ve came when we called them, it would have been handled. Another thing is I think the police used to the taser to fast. I mean there was no attempt to get a translator, there was no attempt to subdue him themselves. I mean there’s three big guys, and he’s maybe I would say between 5’9" or 5’10" in between 40 and 50 years old. Three big young police officers running in there and jumping over the railing. These guys were big boys, tackle him. They have batons, use your batons. Pepper spray, why was the first step using a taser?
DM: From the police point of view, they say this guy is going crazy, he may be 5’ 9" or whatever, but he’s a construction worker, not that they know that at the time, but from their point of view they come in and the guy is acting crazy, he’s broken some stuff, they don’t know anything about him, and they say it’s justifiable. They say this is not a lethal or not supposed to be a leathal weapon, 00:21.05.00 so what’s wrong with using it?
PP: Well it’s, I don’t know the procedure on what you do in that situation, but I mean, taser seems me it should be a last resort before using a gun. There was no physical threat to the police. I’ve seen reports now that he had a staple, stapler or something in his hand. But I mean these are three guys plus security’s there by now as well, so there’s three four five six guys there. I mean he was walking away from them trying to get away, it’s not like he was moving towards them.
DM: Weren’t the cops giving him medical attention. If the medics arrived 00:21.45.00 and right away started giving him CPR surely his heart didn’t just stop at that exact moment, why didn’t they....
PP: ...Why didn’t they give him CPR...
(nobs in agreement)
DM: The police officers that were there, can you describe them? Where they wearing vests, were they in uniform?
PP: They were in uniform, I’m pretty sure they had vests on as well.
DM: So like you said, in your mind these were...
PP: These were cops there for business, like you know. At the time I was on their side, Ok good the cops have arrived. There’s a guy yelling in the airport, you know, where’s security, nobody’s come yet, finally police are here. Ok lets.... When I heard them say can I use a taser I thought ok just keep this camera on, I’ve never seen a taser being used, this is live stuff. They tasered him, he’s screeming on the ground, and we’re kind of going ok, then he goes unconscious and that’s when it really.
DM: What were the police doing during those, you say the police called code red, then they called for help. You say there was an 8 minute period there, what were police doing?
PP: Two men were still kneeling beside him at about waist level as far as I can remember. The other one had a big baton out. And at this point, I guess it’s one of those batons that extends out and then he starts making this stabbing motion coming down and I thought he was smashing his head, but when I reviewed the video he was just beside his head putting the baton back to size. So it was two still on him and the other man was umm... so at this point maybe another officer had come in and thats who left to call paramedics.
DM: And when you say they’re nealing beside him, are they trying to talk to him? Are they doing anything?
PP: I couldn’t tell. I mean it looked like they were at waist level, it didn’t look like they were at head level. But I mean it’s on the tape so this is... I’m looking through the screen, I’ve only reviewed the tape once, I’m not really sure, but it’s on there.
DM: And as far as you recall, were they actually physically on him or just beside him?
PP: At first they were on him but I think they backed off a little bit once he was not moving. I don’t think they were still on him but they were still right there. Maybe they took the handcuffs off, I’m not sure.
DM: And again, you’re not sure about the handcuffs?
PP: I’m not sure. I never... My own eyes, I’ve never seen the handcuffs. But my view is through a camera screen.
DM: So can you say again, I know you’re looking through the camera screen and this is a while ago now, but do you know how many seconds between when they fired the taser and the darts are in his arm and the pop pop pop noise?
PP: In between... umm a couple seconds. Uhh I noticed that he had the prongs in him and it wasn’t popping because you know there was a noticable couple seconds of him yelling and trying to get them out. And then the popping happened. Because you made a comment, 00:24.45.00 "What are those things? What did they shoot him with?" And then the pop pop pop happened.
DM: And he went down right away?
PP: ...went down right away.
DM: And they got on top of him?
PP: ... and they were on top of him right away.
DM: Once the paramedics got there what did the police officers do?
PP: I think they just backed away as far as I can remember. It was a lady paramedic and another man. Maybe they were helping out handing stuff, but I think they just backed away and let the medics do their thing.
DM: Did the medics talk to the police at all?
PP: ... during... I don’t know. At this point we’re watching a man getting CPR, we’re kind of just not even... trying not to watch, if you know what I mean
DM: So then they tried to do CPR for about how long?
PP: I would say a long time, 10 - 15 minutes. A long time.
DM: And you don’t recall exactly what the police, they were just kind of around?
PP: Yeah they were around. They didn’t come into the lobby. They were still on the other side of the glass. But I wasn’t looking at them.
DM: And so what happened after that? They do the CPR for 10-15 minutes and that kind of thing, then what happens?
PP: Once they stopped, I saw one of the officers talking to the security guard, and the security guard is pointing at me obviously telling him that I filmed the thing. Umm they brought in a big green wall, like a....
DM: ...partition, divider kind of thing...?
PP: ...yeah a divider of some sort, and covered the body so we couldn’t see it anymore. Umm, and then the cops were all kind of back and that’s when security was pointing at me. And they kind of came out and started to talk to us a bit.
DM: Uh, did they focus on you or did they talk to everybody?
They wanted to talk to everybody. They got statements from everybody. Umm, some of the ladies were pretty keen on talking to them and giving their opinions. I kind of hung back. I went and put my camera away, put it safely in my bag, worried that they were just going to take it from me. I didn’t want that to happen. Umm....
DM: And at that point, this has all happened now, whats the general mood among the people who have watched it? I mean, horrific obviously, you’ve just watched a man die, but was it support, shock at what the police did? What was the mood?
PP: I dont know if they were shocked at what the police did.We didn’t really discuss that. At that point in time, I wasn’t thinking about the police officers. They came in, they used their tasers. We’re not thinking about the incident. We’re now thinking there’s a guy in front of us, you know there’s nothing but a piece of glass, laying there dead. And everybody, the girls were sick to their stomach, and a lot of people left and couldn’t watch. There might have been some people crying as well.
DM: So when you were interviewed by police, how did that happen? Can you describe that process? Did one of them come up and talk to you?
PP: One of the officers came up to me and said, "Ok. We heard you videotaped it..." and I said yes I did and....
DM: Can I interrupt for just a minute. Was it one of the police officers involved?
PP: Yes, yes it was. He was... took me and said uhh "We’re going to do a statement. Have you’re camera with you, keep it with you." And he wanted to do an audio statement and we went and found a quiet area. And we did about a half the statement and one of the other officers came over and stopped it. And said you know, "Listen you’re involved. You’re not actually going to talk to him at all. You’re not part of this. We’re going to wait until homicide gets here and they’re going to deal with it." So then it just stopped. At this point he had told me "Ok, you have the camera, we might need to take that. Do you understand this is part of the thing?" And "We’re probably going to have to take it" and this and that....
DM: Do you know if this was the officer that actually tasered him?
PP: It wasn’t no.
DM: It wasn’t... so it was one of the two that was....?
PP: It was one of the two, unless there was another taser applied on the ground. But the guy who shot him, it wasn’t him, no.
DM: What was he like when he approached you, when he started the interview?
PP: Super friendly! I was co-operating in full with him. He was super friendly. He was very careful with it. He was thankful for me for doing it. He was... when he left, I thought, "Wow that guy did a great job talking to me."
DM: And when the other police officer came and kind of relieved him, and said we’re going to hand it off...
PP: ...so they kind of... he gave me back my camera. And he said ok you just keep it until someone else comes to deal with it. Then they all went back behind the glass.
DM: And when the other officer came was it a kind of abrupt thing or was he friendly to the police officer?
PP: They were all behind the glass doors, kind of talking and doing their own thing. We were all in the lobby. Some people might have left, I dont know.
DM: I guess I just mean, this guy is doing an interview with you, this police officer, the other comes along and says hold on a second, homicide is going to do this, was this other officer who came in and said hold on a second, was he abrupt with the other officer was it like he was...?
PP: No... no, no. He just said "No no no you can’t do that. You know you’re involved, we’re just going to let homicide do it, so you don’t want to touch him or take part in any interigation." He says "Oh ya ya ya you’re right, you’re right. Sorry Paul." And he had my ID at this point and he said, "Ok" and they just left. And said "Ok, just stick around. Do you mind waiting? Do you mind waiting?" and they were very helpful. Respectful toward me especially. "Do you mind waiting?" "Of course, I’ve got to be out of here by five, as long as I’m out of here by five" and this was at 01:30 about.
DM: And how long was it before someone else came?
PP: Homicide didn’t show up until 4 something, so it was like a few hours. I was just sitting around. People are wanting to leave and people might have left, I’m not sure, and it was just hours before they showed up. A couple hours anyway.
DM: Did anybody ever explain what the delay was there?
PP: A lot of people are saying, you know, we want to leave, whats going on? And I’m saying, they’re coming, they’re coming, they’re coming.
DM: I know it’s only a few hours, but I would assume memories fade pretty quickly sometimes.
PP: (Nods in agreement) Probably yeah.
DM: So when the new homicide investigator comes, was that a uniformed officer as well?
PP: Suits. So three, four guys walked in in suits. I said ok now they’re...now they’ve arrived, and they went straight through the glass door into that area. They were there for a few minutes. Eventually one of the officers Pat Mahall came and that’s when he talked to me. "I understand you took the video camera, I understand you have the camera. Do you mind, Ok we’re going to be doing a statement. I’m not going to do it now, I’m just going to kind of gather everybody and do you mind waiting around? Is this ok?" And I said of course ya ya. So it wasn’t until about 4:20 or 4:30 before we started the interview, just because we had to be out of there by 5:00. First thing, we reviewed the tape first. So we sat there, I showed him how to use my camera and we watched the whole thing. I know it was pretty lengthy because he fast forwarded through the whole first ten minutes, until the police arrived. And then he praised me for doing it. he said "This is unbelievable footage." He said "Thank-you. This is so good you’ve done this. This is going to clarify any outside questions about what actually happened. There’s going to be no shadow of doubt. It’s here, it’s perfect. Thank-you." And then they asked me "Ok can we get a copy of it. Do you have a problem with that." And I said "No no no of course not." He tried to find somewhere in the airport, or he said he tried, to burn, is there somewhere in the airport we can burn this memory card onto a disc for them. No it didn’t happen. Right in front of me he pulled out his phone and phoned the station and talked to one of the "techies" and asked if they had the computers to burn it at the station. And said "Yeah we can do it here." So the next thing was "Do you mind coming down to the station with us and you can leave ur bags here or you can lock them up at the airport, you can bring them with us. Come back to the station and we’ll do an interview there. We’ll burn the footage and can give you back the original." That was the plan and he kind of left and went back behind the doors again and started talking to the other officers. Then he came back and said, "Oh it turns out the guy who knows how to do this stuff isn’t there right now. It’s probably not going to be until tomorrow or later on today before we actually get around to it. Do you mind if we take your camera and your memory card and we’ll get it back to you." And I was concerned with this, you know. This has got my footage from China and my travels and I want to bring it to my dad and show him. And obviously it’s got the footage on it. And I said I kind of need it. No I dont want to do that. And they... little bit more talking and we agreed that I would lend it to them if they would give it back within 48 hours. And they’d use purolator or fed ex and have it delivered to my door within 48 hours. And I thought, ok you know, sounds fair to me 48 hours is fine, lets do that then. So I handed it over. A couple of other people said no you shouldn’t have done that, you should have kept it. I thought you know....
DM: Were you suspicious at all when it went from we’re just going to make a copy in the airport to we need your camera?
PP: No I wasn’t suspicious enough I guess. I thought I could trust them. This is the police, this is... I’m on the right side, this is... part of an investigation you know, lets help out, lets get this thing sorted. You need my camera, you need a copy of it, of course.
DM: And what about now? Are you suspicious now?
PP: Now, I’m definitely suspicious and I regret doing it obviously. I mean, they broke their agreement, I lost my footage you know. It’s been two and half weeks and I still havent got it back yet.
DM: And have you ever heard back from that homicide investigator?
PP: Ya.... yes he called me the next day and wanted to say how do you want us to burn the footage? Do you want us to put it on CD, or do you want us to get a new memory card? How do you want it? And I said memory card is fine and burn it onto CD. thats fine ok. And at the end of the conversation he says oh we cant return the footage to you. And I said why? What do you mean you can't return the footage? And he says oh its part of an investigation you know and we just need to keep it here. And I thought well you told me you were giving it back. Ok thanks for that one. But we’re giving your camera back, it will be there in a couple days...
DM: They kind of changed their story alot didn’t they?
PP: They changed their story. That was the first time they’d gone back on their word.
DM: And so where do things stand now?
PP: Umm, went to court yesterday. They didn’t show up, I guess they got in contact with my lawyer first and told them, do you mind if we adjourn this until next week, 6 days and we’ll give it back to you by next thursday? So we kind of... they’ve told me this twice before. There’s actually if we want to back up, there’s what happened with the whole thing.
PP: So after I got off the phone I kind of felt pretty used, you know. I help them out. I give them this stuff and they go back on their word. I’m a 25 year old youg guy, this is the police, what can I do now. I talked to my dad about it and I said this sucks you know. Can they just do this, can they take advantage of me. He said ok I’ll talk to my old lawyer friend and we’ll see what... he goes and we got recommended anyways to Paul Pearson. And uhh placed a call to Paul and he says they dont have the right to do this, he’s pretty interested in it. By now it was on the news what happened, its a pretty big story, he says ok what I’ll do is write a letter to the police asking them under what criminal law, what right do you have to keep his footage, you’ve told him you’re giving it back. By the next monday he called me and said they’ve, I’ve talked to Pat Mahall, he’s very sorry about this but we’re getting it back to you, and they have no problems. We’re going to get it back to you by Wednesday. Its on its way. I said oh thats great, thats that. I guess the footage wasn’t that great. It helped out and I’ll get my footage back. And that night I get another phone call and its my lawyer and he says Paul, things have taken a 180 degree turn. Hold on I’ll play you the message. He played his voicemail and once again it was Pat Mahall saying sorry to do this but I’m actually going to have to retract that statement. Someone from above me has put a hold on it. We actually cannot give you back the footage. So I got back to the lawyer and I said ok now what. He said ok the next steps now we threaten with the media or we sue them to get it back. Ok we’re going to go to the media, we haven’t told the media anything yet or what reasons do you have to take this and ended up actually having to take them to court to get it back. So...
DM: But you don’t have it back yet?
PP: I don’t have it back yet
DM: Are you.....?
PP: Well this is the third time that they’ve told me they’re giving it back so I mean I’m optimistic but not 100%. I’m still waiting. Although it’s come from their lawyer now and it’s been before a judge so I think, I hope its all in one piece. I hope its all there.
DM: How do you feel about the whole dealings you’ve had with the police in heignsight?
PP: As a Canadian citizen, just coming back from China, bragging about our country, bragging about our rights and freedom, um, just getting strongarmed like that and just kind of you know, I feel pretty used actually. It's kind of tainted my first day back in Canada in two years. Its kind of changed my opinion and kind of cast a black shadow on things.
DM: Has it changed your opinion of the police?
PP: Well its funny because my opinion of the police had changed that night because they way they dealt with me was so respectful and I felt so important because I’m helping this thing that just happened. I’m a good citizen for doing this, you know. I felt really respected and you know the next day when they say oh we’re not giving it back to you, I kinda just dropped. Now my opinion is if I can't trust the police, who can I trust you know.
DM: Between the time of the incident and being interviewed by police, what was your opinion? Had police over reacted?
PP: At the time, I hadn’t given it too much thought. I thought the police went in there and did what they needed to do.There was a man in the airport acting strangely, they came in they tasered him. I wasn’t thinking too much about it. The biggest thing on my mind was a guy just died. We just watched a man die. I wasn’t thinking about the reasons, I wasn’t pointing fingers. I was you know, a man just died and we were all still in shock from it.
DM: I keep coming back to that. You did watch this guy die and now you’ve been wrapped up in this whole thing, it must be kind of weird.
PP: Yeah. Its my first day back in Canada in two years... Welcome back! It’s just been this ongoing thing now for the past two or three weeks. It's kind of consumed my life.
DM: What about this other question, when they said this was going to be very helpful, this is going to clarify everything. In your mind did you think they meant this is going to help the police? What did you think?
PP: I though right away, I thought this is going to help the police. I mean obviously there’s going to be an investigation. They’ve accidently just killed this guy. They’re going to be under investigation. They’re going to have the fire underneath them, but this camera is going to clarify everything. I thought ok they must have done evreything right, this is ok. He also mentioned theres going to be some airport video, probably but this is really going to clear all the other questions of what happened in timing. This is all going to smoothe it over. So when I talked to him the next day and he said he wasn’t going to give it back, I was going Ok why not? In talking to my father, thought there must be something on there, something not as good as I thought. And then once my lawyer gave them the letter, and then they said they’re giving it back, I thought ok they’re in the right. And then the second time, they say we’re not giving it back and someone above is putting a hold on it... now i’m thinking.... they haven’t done something right. They’re probably going to be in trouble for something. There’s something on there that’s keeping them from releaseing it.
DM: So what’s your opinion now? Do you think they’re trying to cover up something... some wrong doing?
PP: I mean now that i’ve seen all the reports and the interviews and I’ve had time to think about the events, and I’ve written it down and I’ve told the story, Now I can say things like they were to quick to use the taser. There was no other steps taken to you know, to stop this man, to subdue him, to put handcuffs on him, you know. Why did we use the taser right away?
DM: You touched on it, has this substantially changed your opinion of this country?
PP: Unfortunately, yes it has. Especially in China. A country that, they don't have the freedom we do. They can’t relate you know, I teach about it and I talk about it. i’ve given them the ammendments and I’ve shown them what our rights are. And they dont have you know, 95% of those rights they dont have you know. They’re not allowed to say anything about anything. They’re not allowed to give their opinion about police or somethng like this. And I’ve bragged about Canada, we can do this and we can do that. And then I come back and then.... ‘cuz once a security guy tried to get me to stop filming and I made the comment, I’ve been China for the last while. I know my rights. I’m keeping this going. I kind of sluffed him off. I knew I didn’t have to give it to them. But I thought I was doing the right thing. I was trying to assist them in any way I can.
DM: So this security guy was a YVR security guy?
PP: Yellow jacket security... I’m guessing YVR security.
DM: Can you tell me a little bit about that?
PP: He was just kind of standing behind us, he wasn’t in behind in the same room as the cops yet. When he saw me i kind of moved forward trying to get the footage you know and when he saw me he kind of said hey put that away and I kind of sluffed him off right away and I think I made the comment to the guy beside me, I've been to China I'm keeping this going. A couple other people were looking at me filming and i think why is this guy filming, and I kind of got some mixed opinions when that happened but i kept it going definately.
DM: Good thing.
PP: Good thing, I guess. Never felt in danger like I said, women were going up and talking to him. Now if this an Irate man, women are going up and trying to calm him down by themselves.
DM: So they have said, police have said, that they couldn't use their pepper spray because they were afraid of pepperspraying other people.
PP: Yeah I heard it was too busy of a place to use it, but that other flight that was arriving had already been detoured around. So the cops and officers and [Robert] were the only people in that room. There was no other people. We were behind glass doors and there was nobody else around.
DM: The way that the airport CEO was describing it too yesterday too, he was describing an arrivals area as a busy place with tens of thousands of people per day but...
PP: It was 1o'clock in the morning.
DM: It doesn't sound like there was a stream of people coming out of there.
PP: There was ten of us that were still waiting for people to show up or just there watching this man. There was a dozen people at the most
DM: And that's it...
PP: ...and thats it. and there was no one behind the glass doors where [Robert] was.
DM: No lines of people filing out from the gates...
PP: ...no anybody. I never saw anybody at any time. There wasn't anybody so...
DM: Have you ever heard an explanation why he was there for such a long time?
PP: Only from mixed interviews and I've heard the story from the mother's point of view and that he'd been flying all day. I relate to him now that I see what the situation was, his behaviour all makes sense. And thats whats kind of compelled me to do all this, is he wasn't just a crazy passenger, he was a guy thats been travelling... never been on an airplane, come to Canada for the very first time. Has been at the airport all day long after flying all day long.
DM: Ya but Paul Pritchard was on.....
PP: Ya you speak english...
DM: I guess what I'm wonderding is whether you think [Robert] was at all to blame for his own death. Was he the author of his own misfortune here in a way?
PP: Like i said before, it could have been handled so differently. He was in an international airport making a fuss, but like I said security never came for half an hour. at least half an hour. I mean it escalated and everything but again he didn't need to be tasered, it wasn't, he wasn't a danger to us. People were going to try and calm him down, women were trying to calm him down. He was more a danger to himself. I mean he was just talking to himself and yelling and distraught. I mean he wasn't dangerous, so why do we need to use a taser on someone who's not dangerous. I thought the use of a taser is for police protection. This man is not coming at the police, hes not acting in a dangerous way toward anyone else. Why do we need to take that step? Why don't we just tackle him?
DM: You said people were trying to contact security, people were trying to use the phone someone went looking for security.
PP: Two people at least, the women that were there used the phone twice to call security.
DM: Did they actually talk to anyone?
PP: I'm not sure, I was filming at this point. Its happening behind me. I don't know if they talked to him, two people actually left to find someone as well. They said you know do you have any concerns or questions and I said yeah. Number one why don't we have security and he said oh i dont know thats an airport thing. We called security so many times. And the other thing was, why did it take so long for medics to come and why didn't the police, I've been a lifeguard, I'm trained in CPR as well, if his heart had stopped and he needed CPR, why did the medics do it and not the police. And he said oh this is something we're going to have to look into obviously. And that was my biggest concern.
DM: And that was his answer for both was it, for your question about why it took so long for security and CPR.
PP: Yeah, one lady that was talking to him said I think he's trying to speak Russian because I tried to speak Italian to him and he wasn't understanding.
DM: So i guess the question is at any point did the police try to speak to this guy in Russian? Did you ever hear the police wonder what language he was speaking?
PP: ...or even talk to us and ask us what the situation is.. no. They were behind the glass door so I dont know what was said, but like I said the timing of when they arrived and i've got them running and hopping the railing, before they even got to the railing they said should I or can I use the taser? So he went in there