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Dziekanski posed no threat, RCMP wrong to taser: Braidwood

Robert Dziekanski did not pose a threat to RCMP officers and the constable who tasered Dziekanski was not justified in deploying his weapon, justice Thomas Braidwood concluded in his final report on the incident today.

Braidwood said the testimony of RCMP officers who claimed they were acting in self-defense was "patently unbelievable" given the video evidence.

"I found that Mr. Dziekanski had been compliant. He did not brandish the stapler. He did not move towards any of the officers.

"I found that all four officers' claims that they wrestled Mr. Dziekanski to the ground were deliberate misrepresentations made for the purpose of justifying their actions."

Braidwood said that "despite their training, the officers approached the incident as though responding to a bar-room brawl and failed to shift gears when they realized they were dealing with an obviously distraught traveler."

Braidwood was commissioned by the provincial government to investigate whether there was misconduct on the part of the four officers who confronted Dziekanksi at the Vancouver airport on Oct. 14, 2007. Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, died after being subdued and tasered by the officers.

Braidwood also said in his final report that it was impossible to know for sure what caused his death "because there was no physical evidence available on the autopsy."

After hearing testimony from 14 medial experts who offered "several different and sometimes contradictory hypotheses", he did conclude that Dziekanski likely died from an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), brought on by an outflowing of adrenaline in his body as a result of stress from the trip and a long delay in customs, and made worse by RCMP actions.

"It was made worse by two things: the officers' deployments of the conducted energy weapons [the tasers] and the physical struggling with the four RCMP officers. Both these stressors contributed substantially. . . the multiple deployment of the conducted energy weapons played a more prominent role."

Braidwood also remarked that the incident was the result of "shameful conduct by a few officers" and that their behaviour shouldn't reflect on the RCMP as a whole. He said that the RCMP's reputation has fallen in public regard as a result of the incident, and recommended that the province create a citizen-based investigative body to hear cases of alleged police misconduct.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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