Inquiry: Canada Taser Death Not Justified

The head of a public inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant said Friday that the police officers who confronted the man at Vancouver's airport were not justified in repeatedly using their Taser stun gun to subdue him.

Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood said the officers could not have, as they claimed, reasonably perceived that Robert Dziekanski was a threat when he picked up a stapler during their confrontation at the airport in October 2007.

Dziekanski died after being shocked five times with a Taser stun gun by police in an incident that was widely seen around the world after a bystander filmed it.

Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish, apparently had become upset after waiting 10 hours at the airport for his mother. The four officers who responded to emergency calls about a man throwing furniture, knocked Dziekanski to the ground using a stun gun about 30 seconds after arriving on the scene. By the time medical help arrived, Dziekanski was dead.

Braidwood, who cannot make findings of criminal responsibility, was commissioned by the British Columbia government to determine whether there was misconduct on the part of the officers.

He would not comment on whether there was misconduct on the part of the officers, but said the officers' responded to the event as if it were a barroom brawl.

"This tragic case is, at its heart, a story of shameful conduct by a few officers," Braidwood said Friday.

Braidwood said some of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reports on the incident were "factually inaccurate, but not intentionally misleading".

The inquiry report makes eight recommendations, including setting up an independent body to investigate complaints of police misconduct in British Columbia.

The report follows an exhaustive public inquiry that spent much of last year hearing from more than 90 witnesses about what happened the night Dziekanski died.

Prosecutors in British Columbia earlier cleared the officers of any criminal wrongdoing, saying they acted reasonably in the circumstances.

Last December, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police complaints commissioner released a report that found the officers' use of the Taser was "inappropriate" and their explanations to justify their actions were not credible.

Dziekanski's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit last year against the RCMP and others, but settled the case this past April after receiving a public apology from the force and an undisclosed financial settlement.

Braidwood released a report last summer from another set of hearings about Taser use in general by law enforcement agencies in B.C. That report concluded that stun guns can kill and their use should be restricted, but they are a necessary tool for police.

Since then, the force has amended its policy regarding use of stun guns.

However, Braidwood's initial findings are now the subject of a court challenge by Taser International, the company that makes the brand of stun guns used by the police in British Columbia. The court challenge is scheduled to be heard in B.C. Supreme Court next month.

The provincial government has spent about 5 million Canadian dollars ($4.9 million) on the two-part inquiry, which was ordered amid public outrage that followed Dziekanski's death and the release of the amateur video of the police confrontation.