Video of RCMP Tasering Polish Immigrant Released

November 15, 2007 · Print This Article · Email This Post

Robert Dziekanski, Tasered to Death by RCMP at AirportAn unedited (and graphic) video of RCMP officers tasering 40-year-old Polish emigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport on October 14 has now been released. Dziekanski died during the incident.

After the RCMP initially maintained that Dziekanski attacked them and after initially refusing to return bystander Paul Pritchard’s video of the tasering, the RCMP returned it when Pritchard threatened to sue. Pritchard told CTV that he was upset by how quickly the RCMP decided to taser Dziekanski: “That’s what bothers me so much. There were no other steps taken…The first step was tasering him…There are so many other things (they could have done). There’s four big officers — they tackle the guy down, take him down. It just didn’t need to happen.”

Robert Dziekanski, Disoriented at Vancouver, BC AirportNo one seems to know quite why the Polish national, who appeared disoriented and couldn’t speak English, was upset to the point of barricading himself behind glass doors and hurling heavy objects, such as a computer and wooden desk, at the doors. He had been traveling for more than 24 hours straight, on his first airplane trip. For some reason, it had also taken more than 10 hours for the Pole to clear customs. No Polish interpreter was called to speak with Dziekanski.

When the RCMP approached Dziekanski, he calmed down, raised his hands and retreated from a doorway. Moments later, Dziekanski screamed and fell to the ground after being tasered with 50,000 volts of electricity. Police then handcuffed him, while it appeared that a second attempt was made to taser the man. Then an officer pressed one of his knees into the handcuffed man’s neck and held it there. Dziekanski lost consciousness at about that point. While one police officer took the victim’s pulse, none of the four made attempts to revive him. In fact, there was a four-minute delay after Dziekanski lost consciousness before an ambulance was called, and a 12-minute time gap before a B.C. ambulance arrived. Airport paramedics could have been on the scene within two minutes, but weren’t called by the airport supervisor. Toxicology tests revealed no drugs or alcohol in the victim’s body, and no signs of disease or trauma that would explain the death were found in a preliminary autopsy.

Another witness, Sima Ashrafina, says she heard Mounties speak of tasering Dziekanski before entering the area, and said Dziekanski was tasered within 30 seconds of his police contact. She said: “Why (did) none of these officers tackle him?”

Inquiries into the incident are underway, including an internal RCMP investigation. The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP also filed a complaint, and the Polish government would like to know what happened to its citizen. Polish consul general Maciej Krych told CTV that Poland “would be grateful for the speediest investigation and if there was wrong-doing, we need to know about it.”

Zofia Cisowski, Mother of Robert Dziekanski
Dziekanski’s mother, Zofia Cisowski of Kamloops, had worked two jobs for several years to pay for her son’s trip to Canada. The two planned to open a business in Kamloops. Instead, she will bury her son this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. in Kamloops. She said that the cost of a plane ticket to Kamloops was the same as the cost of the ticket to Vancouver. She chose the Vancouver destination because she wanted her son to see how beautiful Vancouver is, and to enjoy the drive from Vancouver to Kamloops.

Cisowski called tasers a “people killer.” Since police began using tasers in 2001, at least 16 people have died in Canada from taser use, with additional deaths in the United States and elsewhere. It’s time to reconsider the use of this lethal device, which was originally thought to be a “perfect” weapon which did no harm to the person being subdued. Amnesty International reports that more than 245 people worldwide have been killed as a result of tasering.

Read more Canadian law enforcement news.

Photo credit: CBC, CTV and Paul Pritchard

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