Kelly McParland does an admirable job of summing up the testimony of RCMP officers at the Braidwood Inquiry:
Whatever conclusion is ultimately reached at the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, one conclusion now seems inevitable: the original tale peddled by the RCMP about that day at Vancouver airport was overwhelmingly bogus.
The 40-year-old Mr. Dziekanski did not grab a killer stapler and wave it threateningly over his head, as the police claimed. He did not advance on four officers with threatening gestures. He did not stay on his feet after the first jolt of the Taser they fired at him. He did not have to be wrestled to the ground. He did not, it appears from the testimony of the officers who were there that day, represent any kind of threat at all.
Yet he’s dead. He was Tasered five times by four officers who insisted they felt they were in danger at the time. They Tasered him within 30 seconds of arriving on the scene. They didn’t discuss the situation among themselves first, or formulate a plan of action. They didn’t make any effort to communicate with the Polish-speaking Mr. Dziekanski other than a few peremptory commands. They didn’t speak to any of the many airport employees and passengers who had been observing Mr. Dziekanski’s actions. They wouldn’t stop Tasering him even after he fell to the ground on the first jolt.
They’re sorry he’s dead. They didn’t mean for him to die. Maybe they wouldn’t have kept Tasering him if they knew he was going to die. Would they do anything different today? Um … not that they’ll admit.
To suggest the death of Mr. Dziekanski is appalling doesn’t begin to describe it. Even the initial and oft-repeated claim that Mr. Dziekanski was “agitated” after spending 10 hours wandering around Vancouver airport following a lengthy trip from Poland might not be true. The video of the event, played repeatedly at the inquiry, could be interpreted to indicate he was doing his best to comply with whatever it was the police were demanding, in a language he couldn’t understand.
The actions of the four Mounties raise questions extending far beyond this one horrific incident. Two of the three officers who have testified so far have acknowledged the story they told in the aftermath of Mr. Dziekanski’s death was inaccurate in many critical ways. Const. Bill Bentley wrote in his notebook that Mr. Dziekanski “grabbed stapler and came at members screaming,” but admitted last week that no such thing happened.
Const. Kwesi Millington, who actually fired the taser, was worse. Const. Millington initially told police investigators that, once the four Mounties arrived on the scene, Mr. Dziekanski started moving away from them, and kept yelling. Videos show it didn’t happen. Corp Millington claimed Mr. Dziekanski grabbed a stapler and came at the officers, waving it over his head. He did pick up a stapler, but there is no sign of him raising it above belt level or advancing on the officers. In his formal written report, Const. Millington said Mr. Dziekanski “swung the stapler wildly” at the officers. He admitted on Monday that wasn’t true.
Most damaging, the video played at the hearing shows that, despite all claims, Mr. Dziekanski screamed and dropped to the ground at the first jolt from the Taser. Const. Millington had previously claimed he stayed on his feet, continuing to advance on the police while making threatening gestures. He told investigators they were forced to wrestle him to the ground, zapping him over and over until he stopped resisting.
All, it appears now, bogus. Mr. Dziekanski fell on the first jolt, landing on his back, his feet in the air. No one touched him until he was on the ground. There was no advance, no threats, no danger. They just kept Tasering him because “it was a fluid situation”, and he had, after all, grabbed a stapler.
Oh yes, the stapler. It’s the stapler that gives this tragedy it’s sad air of farce. Just what did the four trained police officers think Mr. Dziekanski was going to do with the stapler? Staple them all to death? [more]
I laughed at the notion of Mr. Dziekanski stapling the officers to death. And then wished it wasn’t all so absurd because a man is dead. I watched bits of Constable Millington’s testimony and wished I could reach out and smack him. How can it be that these officers will not face a criminal court? The RCMP is getting too accustomed to getting away with murder.