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Posts tagged Robert Dziekanski

Taser first, ask questions at the autopsy.

Here is what I said a few days ago about the widespread use of tasers by American cops, in response to a recent case in Alabama:

Tasers were originally introduced for police use as an alternative to using lethal force; the hope was that, in many situations where cops might otherwise feel forced to go for their guns, they might be able to use the taser instead, to immobilize a person who posed a threat to them or to others, without killing anybody in the process.

In practice, of course, cops and police culture being what they are, any notion of limiting tasers to those situations very quickly went out the window. Cops armed with tasers now freely use them to end arguments by intimidation or actual violence, to coerce people who pose no real threat to anyone into complying with their bellowed orders, and to hurt uppity civilians who dare to give them lip. They often do so even when the supposed offense that they’re responding to is completely trivial; they often start tasering, or keep on tasering, after their victims have already been rendered helpless by the circumstances or by an earlier use of force. Since any complaints of excessive force are always handled by their fellow cops, the investigations almost always end up concluding that Official Procedures were followed, as if that made everything O.K., and throwing the complaint into the rubbish bin without doing anything at all. So shock-happy Peace Officers can now go around using their tasers as 50,000-volt human prods in just about any situation, with more or less complete impunity.

— GT 2007-11-11: Taser first, ask questions later

Meanwhile, in Canada, a gang of four cops in the RCMP has killed a man by electrocution. The victim was Polish immigrant named Robert Dziekanski, who had been detained in a secure area in the Vancouver International Airport. He became agitated and could not communicate with the employees, since he did not speak English. When the cops showed up to try to talk to him, he was is standing with his back to a counter and with his arms lowered by his sides. That didn’t stop them from whipping out their tasers and shooting him within 25 seconds of arriving on the scene. They shot him at least three, and possibly four times, including at least once while he was convulsing on the ground while offiicers were kneeling on him and handcuffing him:

An eyewitness’s video recording of a man dying after being stunned with a Taser by police on Oct. 14 at Vancouver International Airport has been released to the public.

The 10-minute video recording clearly shows four RCMP officers talking to Robert Dziekanski while he is standing with his back to a counter and with his arms lowered by his sides, but his hands are not visible.

About 25 seconds after police enter the secure area where he is, there is a loud crack that sounds like a Taser shot, followed by Dziekanski screaming and convulsing as he stumbles and falls to the floor.

Another loud crack can be heard as an officer appears to fire one more Taser shot into Dziekanski.

As the officers kneel on top of Dziekanski and handcuff him, he continues to scream and convulse on the floor.

One officer is heard to say, Hit him again. Hit him again, and there is another loud cracking sound.

Police have said only two Taser shots were fired, but a witness said she heard up to four Taser shots.

Robert Dziekanski falls to the floor as an RCMP officer looks on.Robert Dziekanski falls to the floor as an RCMP officer looks on.

A minute and half after the first Taser shot was fired Dziekanski stops moaning and convulsing and becomes still and silent.

Shortly after, the officers appear to be checking his condition and one officer is heard to say, code red.

[R]etired superintendent Ron Foyle, a 33-year veteran of the Vancouver police who saw the video tape, said he didn’t know why it ever became a police incident.

It didn’t seem that he made any threatening gestures towards them, Foyle said.

The video was recorded in three segments. The first segment shows Dziekanski before police arrive.

He is clearly agitated, yelling in Polish, and appears to be sweating. He can be seen taking office chairs and putting them in front of the security doors. He then picks up a small table, which he holds, while a woman in the arrivals lounge calmly speaks to him in apparent effort to calm him down.

… In the second segment, Dziekanski picks up a computer and throws it to the ground. Three airport personnel arrive and block the exit from the secure area, but Dziekanski retreats inside and does not threaten them.

Then four RCMP officers arrive in the lounge. Someone can be heard mentioning the word Tasers.

Someone replies, Yes, as the officers approach the security doors.

… People in the lounge can be heard clearly telling the police Dziekanski speaks no English, only Russian. His mother later said he only spoke Polish.

Police enter the secure area with no problems and can be seen with Dziekanski standing calmly talking with officers. They appear to direct him to stand against a wall, which he does.

As he is standing there, one of the officers shoots him with a Taser.

— CBC News (2007-11-15): Taser video shows RCMP shocked immigrant within 25 seconds of their arrival

Meanwhile, the cops responded by confiscating the eyewitness’s digital camera, refusing to return it as they’d promised, and then issuing blatant lies about the number of officers on the scene, the number of times they tasered their victim, and whether or not there were bystanders nearby at the time of the attack. The video, which directly contradicts police statements, has only been released to the public since the eyewitness, Paul Pritchard, retained a lawyer and threatened to sue.

Since they have been forced to release the video of the killing, the Mounties have promised that The Matter Will Be Investigated, of course. But the official excuses are already being manufactured as we speak.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dale Carr said no one can judge what happened to Dziekanski by just watching the video.

It’s just one piece of evidence, one person’s view. There are many people that we have spoken to, RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dale Carr said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

What I urge is that those watching the video, take note of that. Put what they’ve seen aside for the time being. And wait to hear the totality of the evidence at the time of the inquest, Carr said.

— CBC News (2007-11-15): Taser video shows RCMP shocked immigrant within 25 seconds of their arrival

What ought to happen after the inquest is that these four Mounties end up in the dock on a charge of murder, in light of their reckless use of violence and their depraved indifference to human life. What will probably happen, instead, is a collective shrug of the shoulders from the Federalis and some sanctimonious official lectures on how important it is to cooperate with airport security.

(Story thanks to Elinor, in comments.)

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