VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The Royal Canadian Mounted Police acted prematurely and inappropriately in their use of electronic stun guns in an incident at Vancouver airport that led to death of a Polish immigrant, a government commission reported on Tuesday.
Robert Dziekanski died in October 2007 shortly after he was repeatedly shocked with a Taser stun gun and subdued by RCMP officers. 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 to wrestle him to the ground.
The four Mounties who confronted Dziekanski at the airport had no plan when they arrived on the scene, and did not warn him before they fired, said Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
“Use of the (stun gun) against Mr. Dziekanski was premature and inappropriate,” Kennedy said, dismissing police claims that Dziekanski posed a serious threat.
He sharply criticized the Mounties for wanting to delay the release of the commission’s report, and for failing to adopt earlier recommendations on the use of Taser stun guns that were issued following the 2007 incident.
Kennedy also warned the iconic national police force that its risked losing the public’s trust over its handling of the case.
Dziekanski, who did not speak English, had just arrived in Canada to join his mother and became distraught after a communications mixup left him stranded for hours in the airport’s luggage pickup area with no explanation of what he should do. Police were called following reports of a man creating a disturbance.
The RCMP officers called to the scene waited less than 30 second before using a Taser stun gun and shocked Dziekanski repeatedly without determining if the further shocks were needed, the report said.
The exact cause of Dziekanski’s death has not been determined, and weapon-maker Taser International says there is no evidence its device was responsible.
Kennedy said he did not find the police officers’ explanations of what happened credible, but he did not think they broke the law or planned to injure or kill Dziekanski when they arrived.
He also released a copy of a letter from the RCMP asking him to delay releasing the report until after the results of a separate British Columbia inquiry are completed next year.
Kennedy normally allows the Mounties time respond before releasing his reports, but said public interest this time was too high and waiting for the police had delayed the release of some previous reports by more than year.
“I am not impressed,” Kennedy said, holding a copy of the letter in which the RCMP said it was not ready yet to respond.
How the renowned police force responds to his findings and those of the upcoming provincial report “will have a profound impact on how the iconic institution is viewed by Canadians,” Kennedy warned.
The Conservative federal government has said it will not renew Kennedy’s contract at the end of the year, but he dismissed reporters suggestions on Tuesday that the decision was linked to this report.
Reporting by Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson