RICHMOND, British Columbia (Reuters) - The Royal Canadian Mounted Police apologized on Thursday for the death of a Polish man in a stun-gun incident that drew world attention and shook public confidence in the iconic police force.
The apology came as part of an out-of-court settlement with the mother of Robert Dziekanski, who died in an October 2007 confrontation at Vancouver International Airport hours after he had arrived in Canada as a new immigrant.
“Your son arrived from Poland eager to begin a new life here in Canada. We are deeply sorry he did not have that opportunity,” RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass told Zofia Cisowski, who sat beside him at a news conference.
Financial terms of the settlement were not released.
Cisowski, who wiped away tears, said she still mourns her son but it was time to move on with her life. She said she was pleased the Mounties were reexamining their policies on using the weapons, which disable a target with an electric jolt.
“We will have to make sure that what happened to my son, Robert, will not be repeated,” she told reporters in a soft voice that was at times difficult to hear over aircraft taking off at the nearby Vancouver airport.
Dziekanski died shortly after he was repeatedly shocked with a Taser stun gun and subdued by RCMP officers who had responded to reports of a disruptive man at the airport. The exact cause of death has never been determined.
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 had to wrestle him to the ground.
Dziekanski, who did not speak English, was moving to Canada to join his mother and became distraught after a communications mix-up left him stranded for hours in the airport’s luggage pickup area with no explanation of what he should do.
A probe by the government’s police watchdog concluded officers acted prematurely and inappropriately. Results of a more detailed provincial investigation are expected to be released this spring.
The incident and inaccurate police statements have been cited a major reason in a drop in public confidence in the RCMP, best known internationally for their ceremonial red uniforms.
Bass said the force was trying to address lagging public confidence by changing how it uses the weapons and investigates conduct of its own officers.
Bass agreed that more independent testing was needed about the potential health risks of stun guns, which police say are needed as an alternative to traditional firearms.
The weapon’s maker, Taser International, denies there is any evidence its weapons pose a health risk, although critics say not enough is known about the impact of the electric jolt on the human heart.
The U.S. company has gone to court to challenging a British Columbia inquiry into Dziekanski’s death that called for restrictions on their use. A judge is scheduled to hear the challenge in Vancouver on April 12.
None of the officers involved in Dziekanski’s death have been charged criminally in Canada, but Canadian media reports say the Polish government has not ruled out filing charges of its own.
Reporting by Allan Dowd; Editing by Frank McGurty