Canada

RCMP officer 'wrong' in email: senior Mountie

A senior RCMP officer says he was misquoted by a colleague in a controversial email written weeks after Robert Dziekanski died after being stunned by a Mountie Taser at the Vancouver airport.
The Braidwood inquiry is investigating the death of Robert Dziekanski, above, at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007. (Paul Pritchard)

A senior RCMP officer says he was misquoted by a colleague in a controversial email written weeks after Robert Dziekanski died after being stunned by a Mountie Taser at the Vancouver airport.

In the email, Chief Supt. Dick Bent told Assistant Commissioner Al McIntyre that Supt. Wayne Rideout told him the officers who used a Taser on Dziekanski in October 2007 discussed using the weapon on their way to the scene.

That contradicted testimony the Mounties themselves gave earlier in the Braidwood inquiry looking into Dziekanski's death. He died after RCMP officers shot him five times with a stun gun and left him handcuffed face down on the floor of the arrivals lounge of Vancouver International Airport.

"Chief Supt. Bent is a highly respected member of the RCMP. But the way he has portrayed my comments to him in that passage that I read out is wrong," Rideout told the inquiry at a courtroom in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday.

Bent stands by interpretation

Bent also testified Tuesday, and said he was standing by his initial interpretation of what the officers discussed on the way to the airport, but admitted he might have been mistaken.

Bent said he wrote the email shortly after speaking by phone to the supervisor of the officers involved in the incident.

The revelation that Bent's email existed halted inquiry proceedings in June just as summations were to begin. The inquiry resumed Tuesday after a three-month delay to allow the contents of the email to be examined.

The November 2007 email suggests the four Mounties who responded to the airport call discussed, before they arrived on the scene, a plan to use a Taser against the Polish immigrant.

"Finally, spoke to Wayne and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw the symptoms of excited delirium, but instead had discussed the response en route and decided that if he did not comply that they would go to CEW," Bent said in the email.

The "Wayne" in the email is Rideout, then head of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team looking into Dziekanski's death. CEW is short for a conducted energy weapon, the RCMP name for a Taser-type weapon.

'We're going to deal with it'

The email appears to contradict the statements of the officers involved in the incident, Const. Bill Bentley, Const. Gerry Rundel, Const. Kwesi Millington and Cpl. Benjamin Robinson.

They testified in the spring that they didn't have a plan before reaching the scene to use the stun gun on Dziekanski.

Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood has scolded the RCMP for failing to disclose the email sooner.

"I was critical back in June because that email we should have had," inquiry lawyer Art Vertlieb said. "The more important thing is we've got it and we're going to deal with it."

Vertlieb has acknowledged the comments on the email are hearsay but he said they must be investigated since they're from senior RCMP.

"On its face, the email appears to tell a significantly different story," he said.

Crown prosecutors decided not to charge the officers who were at the scene. The Mounties are not scheduled to appear again at the inquiry.

"There is not a single shred of evidence to support the assertion made in Chief Bent's email," said lawyer David Butcher, who represents Bentley.

Dziekanski's mother's lawyer skeptical

However, Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer representing Dziekanski's mother, said he'll consider asking the inquiry to call back the four officers if he thinks there are unanswered questions.

"The only thing that has to be explained is why does a person who is in command write that kind of an email," Kosteckyj told The Canadian Press. "When I take a look at how quickly (the Taser) was used, I have a hard time believing that it wasn't discussed."

The RCMP has produced about 18,000 new documents since June.

Vertlieb said final arguments will likely finish by mid-October.

With files from The Canadian Press