Airport death video shows man's final moments
Published Wednesday, November 14, 2007 10:26PM EST
Disturbing video of a confrontation between the RCMP and a distraught man who died after officers used a Taser on him was made public on Wednesday.
The video shows Polish national Robert Dziekanski in the early morning hours at the international arrivals terminal of Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14.
Dziekanski appears to be agitated and breathing heavily. At one point in the video, he barricades himself behind glass doors of a secure area. He then throws a small wooden table and a computer at the doors.
Four policemen arrive on the scene, and Dzienkanksi appears to calm down.
Police seem to gesture to Dziekanski to back up, and he responds by raising his hands and retreating from the door.
The officers don't attempt to subdue the 40-year-old man as they surround him. But seconds later Dzienkanski screams in pain, staggers, and then falls to the ground after being shot by an electric stun gun, or Taser.
He appears to writhe in pain, while police pin his arms, legs, and head to the ground and handcuff him.
As three officers hold Dziekanski down, there appears to be a second attempt to Taser him. After he's restrained, an officer places his knee on his neck and holds it there.
After several seconds Dziekanski appears to stop writhing as he lies pinned on his stomach and appears to lose consciousness. An officer takes his pulse at his neck. None of the officers appear attempting to revive him.
Hours before the video was aired on newscasts, police cautioned the public to wait for all of the evidence to come out during a coroner's inquest before jumping to conclusions.
"This video that has been released is merely one small piece of evidence that is going to be presented in a big investigation," RCMP spokesperson Dale Carr told a news conference Wednesday evening.
"We would never dream of presenting a case based on one small piece of evidence."
Emergency radio logs leaked to CTV British Columbia show a 12-minute gap from when Dziekanski lost consciousness and when B.C. Ambulance arrived.
The airport has its own paramedics who could have been at the scene within two minutes, but the airport supervisor did not call them, CTV British Columbia reported.
Dziekanski, who didn't speak English, had just arrived from Poland on his first airliner trip ever. He had come to Canada to be with his mother, Zofia Cisowski, who lives in Kamloops.
But for reasons that are still not clear, it took 10 hours for him to clear customs. Dziekanski and his mother never connected, and she left the airport to return to Kamloops.
The Polish government wants the tragedy to be thoroughly examined.
"We would be grateful for the speediest investigation and if there was wrong-doing we need to know about it," Maciej Krych, the Polish consul general told CTV British Columbia on Oct. 23.
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP has filed its own complaint about the case. The RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is also investigating the incident.
Another cellphone video of the fatal confrontation had been released previously but this latest video is of much higher quality.
Witnesses shocked at police reaction
Sima Ashrafina, a witness to the incident who appears in the video, told CTV News that memories of the incident have troubled her for a month.
Ashrafina said she tried desperately to communicate with Dziekanski, even trying Italian at one point, before resorting to sign language.
"I never felt threatened by him," she said through tears after watching the footage. "I'm facing him and there's a glass door and I was signing: 'Just calm down,' and he was ... quiet. He was asking for help, and I couldn't help him."
Ashrafinia claims she heard the RCMP officers talk of Tasers before they entered the secure area. Within 30 seconds, Dziekanski was Tasered.
"Why (did) none of these officers tackle him?" she said.
Paul Pritchard, the witness who taped the incident on his video camera, turned the video over to the RCMP, who then told him it could be up to two years before they returned the footage. When he threatened to sue, they returned it to him.
Pritchard told CTV Newsnet's The Verdict on Wednesday that he was disturbed by how quickly police decided to use the Taser.
"That's what bothers me so much. There were no other steps taken," he told host Paula Todd.
"The first step was Tasering him ... There are so many other things (they could have done). There's four big officers -- they tackle the guy down, take him down. It just didn't need to happen."
Pritchard told The Verdict that media outlets in B.C. paid him for access to the video, but he did not sell it to the highest bidder. He said he did not ask for money, but reporters offered him a fee for the video.
A lawyer for Dziekanski's mother told CTV News that his client has seen selected portions of the video, but would not say what her reaction was. Last week, Cisowski seemed to support the decision to release the video to the public. She will bury her son on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Kamloops.
With a report from CTV British Columbia Bureau Chief Todd Battis