Dziekanski in 'combative stance,' inquiry hears
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Monday, March 2, 2009 9:53PM EST
Robert Dziekanski appeared to have an "intent to attack" when an RCMP officer decided to deploy a Taser against the Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport, an inquiry heard Monday.
Const. Kwesi Millington told a Vancouver inquiry that Dziekanski was acting aggressively and wielding a stapler when the officer made the decision to use his Taser on Oct. 14, 2007.
Specifically, Dziekanski threw his hands in the air, walked away and then turned towards RCMP officers with a stapler in hand, Millington said.
"He was in a combative stance as we call it, and was approaching the officers, I believe with the intent to attack so I deployed the Taser," Millington said Monday.
Each of the four officers who responded to the scene were wearing bullet-proof vests and each was armed with a gun, a baton and pepper spray, the inquiry heard. They were also standing several metres away from Dziekanski.
"Given all the four officers and the tools and the distance, that's what scared you?" inquiry lawyer Art Vertlieb asked Millington on Monday, referring to the stapler.
"That's what made me fear for the officers' safety," replied Millington.
Millington said he used the Taser a second time on Dziekanski, who fell to the ground after the device was initially used, because he did not seem affected by the first shock.
"The person that it's applied against is supposed to fall immediately and it's supposed to immobilize them," Millington said.
"It did not have that effect so I felt it was necessary to fire it again."
After Dziekanski was shocked for a second time, he was still "fighting and struggling" with RCMP officers, Millington said.
A superior officer ordered Millington to use his Taser on Dziekanski again, which he did, though he remembers it made a "clacking" noise at that point and appeared to be ineffective.
While his fellow officers attempted to get Dziekanski's arms behind his back, Millington switched the device to a mode that is used when the Taser is placed directly against a human body and fired the device again.
"Did it occur to you that his movements on the ground, his moving around was a response to pain and not an attempt to be resistant?" Vertlieb asked the RCMP officer.
"After the first one, when he fell to the ground, I interpreted that to be he didn't feel the full effects," Millington said.
Officer discuses incident details
Millington said he used his Taser four times against Dziekanski, though the device's internal computer records show it was deployed five times.
The RCMP officer's testimony contradicted some earlier accounts of the incident that he had given to officers investigating Dziekanski's death.
In October 2007, Millington had said Dziekanski was yelling with the stapler held above his head and had been standing the first three times he was stunned by the Taser.
But after reviewing a bystander's video, the RCMP officer said Dziekanski was standing only for the first stun and that he might not have been yelling.
"That's what my notes said and my statement," Millington said, without giving further explanation for the discrepancies in his accounts of the incident.
Millington also talked to the inquiry about his RCMP training which required him to warn an individual that a Taser might be used, though he did not pass on this warning to Dziekanski.
The RCMP officer had also been instructed that multiple Taser stuns could be "hazardous" and that medical first responders needed to be informed if a Taser had been used on an individual.
Millington said he could not remember why multiple Taser stuns were a concern and that he left it to other officers to inform medical first responders what had happened.
Concerns about Tasers
Dziekanski died after being subdued by RCMP officers and his death ignited a fierce public debate over the use of Tasers.
In the days following his death, the RCMP insisted a Taser was used only twice.
RCMP officers had confronted Dziekanski after they were given reports of a man throwing furniture in the arrivals area of the Vancouver airport. Within seconds of encountering the Polish immigrant, they decided to use a Taser to subdue him.
Four RCMP confronted Dziekanski, and Millington is the third of that group to testify before the inquiry.
The two previous officers to testify, Const. Bill Bentley and Const. Gerry Rundel, have said they considered Tasers to be a lower level of force than pepper spray or batons.
Both men said Dziekanski appeared threatening and they both held concerns he might attack others in the vicinity, including themselves.
While Crown prosecutors have said they will not charge any of the officers because their use of force against Dziekanski was justified, the inquiry commissioner could make findings of misconduct against anyone involved in the incident.
With files from The Canadian Press