March 2, 2009 / 8:29 PM / 9 years ago

Canada police officer defends repeated Taser jolts

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A police officer who repeatedly shot a Polish immigrant with a stun gun in a fatal incident at Vancouver’s airport acknowledged on Monday his report on the incident had errors in it.

<p>Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski is seen being approached by an unidentified woman (R) in the arrivals area of the Vancouver airport in this video footage taken October 14, 2007. REUTERS/Paul Pritchard/Handout</p>

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Kwesi Millington said he never imagined that the incident would result in the death of Robert Dziekanski, although training in use of the Taser guns warned about repeated applications of the weapon.

Millington told a provincial public inquiry that he initially used the weapon because Dziekanski showed “an intent to attack,” and fired again almost immediately because he did not fall to the ground after the first 50,000-volt jolt.

A video of the incident played during the inquiry appears to show a screaming Dziekanski falling to the ground before the second shock is fired. He was eventually shocked with electricity five times.

Millington acknowledged that after watching the video there were mistakes in his report initially after the incident in 2007, including his statement that Dziekanski had lunged at the four police officers and had to be wrestled to the ground.

“There are errors in it, yes,” Millington said.

Dziekanski, who was in the process of immigrating to Canada where his mother lives, died during the struggle with police although the exact cause of his death has never been determined.

A video of the October 2007 incident received international publicity and raised controversy over the police use of the electronic weapons that are intended to disable victims as a safer alternative to firearms.

Monday’s testimony before the special provincial inquiry marked the first time Millington, a member of the RCMP since 2005, has spoken publicly about the incident.

Dziekanski, who did not speak English, was described as upset and confused after waiting alone in the airport for hours for his mother to arrive, but witnesses have questioned police claims that he posed a threat.

Police had been called to the airport about a distraught man who had reportedly been throwing luggage.

Millington, who said he tried to communicate with Dziekanski by using hand gestures, told the inquiry he remembered firing his Taser four times. The weapon also made a “clacking” sound during several of the shots, meaning no electricity was going into Dziekanski, he said.

He said RCMP training tells officers they need to warn a suspect before using the Taser, but this was not done in this case because events were moving quickly.

The British Columbia inquiry, which includes a representative of the Polish government, is examining both the safety of the weapon, made by U.S.-based Taser International, and police actions during the incident. Canadian prosecutors have said there was no criminal wrongdoing by the officers.

Reporting by Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson

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