Air traveller dies after taser jolts in Vancouver
From Monday’s Globe and Mail
October 15, 2007
VANCOUVER — The death of a middle-aged man at Vancouver airport after being stunned twice by an electric shock from a taser gun sparked new appeals yesterday for a moratorium on police use of the high-powered weapon.
The dead man, who was believed to be travelling by himself, had arrived in Vancouver shortly before the incident. He had a passport and luggage, but police would not release his name until they confirmed his identity with Interpol, an international law enforcement agency.
The man in his 40s began behaving wildly in the international arrivals lounge of the Vancouver airport. He was sweating profusely, yelling, tipping his luggage cart over and throwing chairs about, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre said. He grabbed a computer off a desk at an arrival gate and was pounding on windows.
Witnesses did not recognize the language he was speaking, although some believed he was speaking an Eastern European language.
Private security personnel were unable to deal with the man and contacted the RCMP office at the airport. RCMP officers tried to calm him down, repeatedly telling him to put his hands on the counter, police said, as he continued to pick up objects from the counter.
They interpreted his level of violence as escalating,” Sgt. Lemaitre said. “He failed to recognize any demands he was asked. … It was obvious to officers – he was sweating profusely – this was going to escalate.”
After being tasered, the man fell to the ground but was still combative.
“It took three officers to handcuff him; he was still struggling,” Sgt. Lemaitre said.
He then lapsed into unconsciousness. A RCMP member monitored his vital signs until emergency medical personnel arrived. Moments later, the man died.
It was not clear yesterday why the man was so agitated, but Sgt. Lemaitre quickly dismissed the possibility of terrorism. “Nothing led us to believe that it was an act of terrorism,” he said. “At this point … we believe it was related to the emotions of one individual.”
Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, who has been following the issue closely for several years, said the gun, which generates a 50,000-volt electrical charge, was introduced in Canada without any independent safety testing. Sixteen people have died in Canada and almost 300 in North America in recent years after they were stunned by a taser, Mr. Ward said.
North American police and manufacturers would have the public believe that tasers are not responsible for any deaths, “but that is simply not true,” he said. “I’m not convinced these devices are safe. I feel their use should be discontinued until there has been independent testing done of them.”
Patti Gillman, whose brother, Robert Bagnell, died after being tasered by Vancouver police, said police often resort to using tasers without knowing what the outcome will be. “When a guy is going berserk, that seems to be when the taser is at its deadliest,” Ms. Gillman.
“Every time they use it, they are playing Russian roulette,” she added. “I do not know the answer in those cases. But it is definitely not a taser.”
However, Sgt. Lemaitre dismissed concerns about the use of the taser guns. Police have done reviews of several deaths following the use of tasers, he said. Official results of the reviews show the deaths are usually as a result of drugs in the system, not the use of a taser gun, he said.
Sixteen Canadians have died in the past 4½ years after being tasered, according to Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward.
April 19, 2003: Terrance Hanna, 51, Burnaby, B.C.
July 22, 2003: Clay Willey, 33, Prince George, B.C.
Sept. 28, 2003: Clark Whitehouse, 34, Whitehorse, Yukon
March 23, 2004: Perry Ronald, 28, Edmonton
May 1, 2004: Roman Andreichikov, 25, Vancouver
May 13, 2004: Peter Lamonday, 38, London, Ont.
June 23, 2004: Robert Bagnell, 44, Vancouver
July 17, 2004: Jerry Knight, 29, Mississauga
Aug. 8, 2004: Samuel Truscott, 43, Kingston, Ont.
May 5, 2005: Kevin Geldart, 34, Moncton, N.B.
June 30, 2005: Gurmeet Sandhu, 41, Surrey, B.C.
July 1, 2005: James Foldi, 39, Beamsville, Ont.
July 15, 2005: Paul Sheldon Saulnier, 42, Digby, N.S.
Dec. 24, 2005: Alesandro Fiacco, 33, Edmonton
Aug. 30, 2006: Jason Doan, 28, Red Deer, Alta.
Oct. 14, 2007: Unidentified male, Vancouver airport
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