Canada police slammed over fatal Taser case

Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:12pm EDT

* Officers acted like it was a "barroom brawl"

* Poland wants criminal probe reopened

* Video of death drew international attention

By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, June 18 (Reuters) - "Shameful conduct" by Canadian police officers led to the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in a stun gun incident at Vancouver's airport that drew world attention, an inquiry said on Friday.

The officers acted as if they were responding to a "barroom brawl" and were too aggressive when it was clear they were only dealing with a man who was distraught and confused on arriving in a new homeland, the inquiry said.

"This case is, at its heart, the story of shameful conduct by a few officers," inquiry head Thomas Braidwood wrote in his report, which also accuses the officers of making misleading statements to justify their actions.

"Mister Dziekanski in no way brought this upon himself," Braidwood, a retired provincial judge, told reporters in Vancouver. "He was not aggressive in any manner."

The Polish government, which participated in the provincial inquiry, asked Canadian prosecutors on Friday to reconsider their earlier decision not to file criminal charges against the four Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers.

British Columbia later said that a special prosecutor would be named to review the matter.

Braidwood said he was not criticizing the RCMP as a whole, but his report comes a day after the iconic police force was sharply criticized by another inquiry over its handling of the 1985 Air India bombing case.

Dziekanski died in October 2007 shortly after he was repeatedly shocked with a Taser stun gun and subdued by four RCMP officers who had responded to reports of a drunken and disruptive man at the airport.

A bystander's video of Dziekanski screaming on the floor as he died was broadcast around the world, drawing public outrage and contradicting initial police statements that they shot him after having to wrestle him to the ground.

Dziekanski was immigrating to Canada to join his mother Zofia Cisowski, who had been waiting at the airport to meet him but had left after being erroneously told by officials there that he had not arrived.

That mistake left Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish, waiting alone for several hours with no information on what he was to do next.

Cisowski thanked Braidwood on Friday for his report. The RCMP in April apologized to Cisowski and agreed to an out-of-court settlement of her lawsuit against them.

DEATH CAUSE STILL A MYSTERY

An autopsy failed to determine the exact cause of Dziekanski's death.

Braidwood said the cause may never be determined, but it was likely the result of a pre-existing heart condition combined with stress and being repeatedly shocked by the officers with the Taser stun gun.

Braidwood recommended in a separate report last year that Canadian police restrict their use of Taser stun guns while safety concerns about the weapon, which disables a target with up to 50,000 volts of electricity, are studied.

Weapon-maker TASER International Inc. (TASR.O) has asked a Canadian court to overturn that report. The company says there is no evidence the stun gun has resulted in any fatalities, and that it is a safer alternative to firearms.

Braidwood said on Friday he stands by the earlier report.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing Mario Di Simine)

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