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Police taser video 'worse than Dziekanski' says chief

*This story was updated at 5:00 p.m. on November 16, 2009.

Aboriginal and civil rights groups are demanding RCMP release a video of man who died after being tasered in a police holding cell in 2003.

The video reportedly shows Clay Willey, an aboriginal man, being tasered while hog-tied on the floor of the cell at a Prince George RCMP detachment. The officers involved in the incident have not been identified.

At a press conference this morning, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said the four-minute long clip was "sickening" and "very, very difficult to watch."

"Clearly, they were trying to shut him up by using a taser."

David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said he hopes media attention will pressure RCMP to release the video. "We believe it will cause an outcry," Eby said.

Writer Leonard Cler-Cunningham, who uncovered the video during the course of a five-year investigation on aboriginal deaths in custody, brought it to the attention of Eby and Phillip about six months ago. He thanked the RCMP for making the video available to him, but said police refuse to release to the public in order to protect Willey's privacy.

"They're using the right to privacy to protect themselves," he said.

A coroner's inquest into Willey’s death conducted in October of 2004 determined that he died of a cocaine overdose. According to the report, Willey had been acting erratically in the parking lot of a Prince George mall when police picked him up. He was handcuffed and taken to the local detachment, where police said they "touch stunned" him with a Taser after he continued to struggle and kick. Less than 45 minutes passed between the time he was picked up at the mall and the time an ambulance arrived at the detachment. Willey died en route to the hospital.

Dr. John C. Butt, a specialist in forensic pathology, noted that touch stun is a less debilitating mode on the Taser gun and said it wasn't clear how many times it was deployed. He questioned why police would taser a man who was already tied up and face down, and called it a "cruel and unnecessary act."

RCMP media relations officer Tim Shields said the actions of the officers were not compliant with current Taser protocol, which prohibits deployment unless there is a threat to police or the public. A review of the incident under former protocol -- which allows Taser deployment if the subject shows resistance -- found the officers' actions were compliant.

Shields said RCMP would meet with Willey's family in two weeks to discuss the possibility of making the video available to the public.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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