Yet another taser victim
Robert Dziekanski, a 41 year old Polish immigrant, died moments after being tasered five times in a holding area at Vancouver International Airport on 17th October 2007. Police and witnesses conflicted regarding their recollection of the number of jolts Robert is alleged to have received.
Revulsion, anger, sadness and support greeted the release of a controversial video showing Robert Dziekanski’s confrontation with RCMP police officers at Vancouver International Airport, an encounter that ended in his death. Millions of people around the world watched the video of Robert’s final moments on the Internet or TV via Canadian broadcasters and international outlets such as CNN, ABC and The BBC.
CAUTION: distressing footage!
The video, which spread globally within hours, triggered thousands of email responses to media outlets and filled Internet blog sites both criticizing and supporting police actions. It also created a political storm, with opposition politicians demanding a full-blown review of Taser use and ministers warning against a rush to judgment.
Public reaction to what some commentators have compared with the videotaped Rodney King beating in Los Angeles has been strong and varied. “I was truly shocked and saddened by this terrible incident at the airport,” a reader wrote to The Canadian Press.
Piotr Ogrodzinski, Poland’s ambassador to Canada said Thursday that he was shocked by the video and said Canada’s ambassador to Poland will meet with Polish officials on Monday. “It requires answers immediately,” Ogrodzinski told The Associated Press. “The video creates a strong impression that the police officers’ reaction was not suitable to the circumstances.”
Ogrodzinski said Dziekanski appeared helpless and made no move that would indicate that he was trying to hit anybody. “It is really shocking. It’s so sad,” he said.
Lorne Meltzer, a corporate valet, stated that he was at the airport picking up a client just before 1:30 a.m. on the date in question and found himself facing Robert Dziekanski. He tried to calm Robert, who appeared extremely agitated, in the public arrivals area and unwittingly let him back into the secure international arrivals area, using his pass to open the one-way doors.
Meltzer (who was the person who called in RCMP) went on to say; “I think the responsible parties are the Vancouver Airport and the RCMP for not having other negotiating tactics once he was at the heightened state,” He said he clearly warned the RCMP officers that the man didn’t speak English. Meltzer claimed the officers gave Dziekanski two commands in English and within seconds Tasered him after he held a stapler in an apparent threatening manner.
It’s still unclear how Dziekanski could spend 10 hours in the airport without receiving the help he needed, why his mother, after waiting seven hours to pick up Dziekanski, was told he couldn’t be found and why the four RCMP officers used the Taser within seconds of arriving at the scene. In a short speech at the ceremony, Poland’s consul general in Vancouver, Maciej Krych, promised to push for answers.
The video drew strong exchanges in the House of Commons. Liberal Bonnie Brown said Canadians want answers after seeing the extremely disturbing video. “Is it standard operating procedure for the RCMP to use Tasers when there is no obvious physical threat?” she asked.
When Robert Dziekanski’s mother saw him for the last time before he was cremated, she placed on his body two National Geographic magazine covers. One depicted Poland, his home of 40 years. The other, British Columbia, the paradise where he dreamed of joining his mother, Zofia Cisowski, to start a new life. That new life had only just begun when it was over. Shortly after passing through immigration, Dziekanski was dead, having been Tasered twice, then restrained by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport.
At his funeral Robert was mourned as an aspiring world traveller, a man with an intelligent, philosophical mind and above all, a boy who loved his mother. Dressed in black, Cisowski sat silently and stared blankly ahead as friends and strangers tried to do justice to her boy.
December 13, the Criminal Justice Branch of the province of British Columbia announced it would not press charges against the four policemen responsible for the death of Polish visitor to Canada Robert Dziekanski on October 17, 2007. Spokesman Robert Lowe said there was “no substantial likelihood of conviction if his service proceeded to criminal charges.”
According to the Criminal Justice branch, prosecutors reviewed all the evidence and found the evidence fell “remarkably short” of that which is needed to lay charges. Three pathologists say the cause of death was not tasering, rather a result of a combination of factors: alcohol withdrawal, hysterical fear of flying, lack of sleep and restraint by the officers.
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