Archive for October, 2007

Toronto man struck in eye by police Taser

Monday, October 29, 2007
CBC News

A man is in hospital and may lose one of his eyes after being hit by a police Taser over the weekend in Toronto.

The province’s Special Investigations Unit has been called in to review the incident.

SIU spokesman Frank Phillips said Toronto officers were called to the scene of a domestic dispute in the St. Clair and Dufferin area on Saturday morning.

Phillips said a man who left the scene was confronted by police along St. Clair Avenue.

“The male was quite agitated [and] had been drinking. The officers on scene requested a sergeant attend the scene, and after further interaction with this gentleman, the sergeant deployed the Taser. And one of the probes struck the man in the eye.… we’re treating this as a serious injury,” said Phillips.

The Taser’s hook-like prongs embedded in the man’s eye and then delivered a blast of electricity.

The SIU is looking into whether the police were justified in firing the weapon and what caused the man to be hit in the eye.

The unit is called in any time there is a serious injury to a civilian involving police.

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Latest taser incident raises new concerns

Globe and Mail
October 24, 2007

VANCOUVER — Another taser incident on the Lower Mainland is raising new questions about whether the police really need the device.

A Coquitlam man said this week that RCMP officers tasered him last Friday after he had been handcuffed and thrown to the ground.

Colin Hawkins said in an interview yesterday that he was on his way home from a hockey game with his wife and daughter on Friday night when he grew worried after seeing three police cars approach a neighbourhood where his 17-year-old son was at a house party.

As Mr. Hawkins reached the home, he said, he saw his son being hauled away by three police officers. When he got out of his vehicle and protested, he was tasered.

“It seemed like a flash,” said Mr. Hawkins. “Within seconds, I was spun around sideways. I was tripped up, thrown to the ground, and cuffed. I had somebody’s boot on my ear holding my head to the ground.”

Officers told Mr. Hawkins not to move. But when his daughter screamed at him to see if he was all right, he looked up.

“As I lifted my head to see my daughter, I got tasered,” said Mr. Hawkins.

The incident came less than a week after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after police used a taser on him at Vancouver International Airport. Mr. Dziekanski had thrown a chair and computer, spoke no English and was unable to understand the directions RCMP officers shouted at him.

A coroner’s inquest will be held into his death.

Mr. Hawkins said Friday’s incident left him with burns on his leg, bruised ribs and a cut on his forehead. He said yesterday that the taser burns are still as sore as when he was first zapped.

The 48-year-old technician said he doesn’t understand why RCMP felt the need to taser someone who had already been subdued.

“If someone is down and out of commission,” said Mr. Hawkins, “why are you tasering them?”

Coquitlam RCMP, however, defend the decision.

“The taser was deployed in the appropriate manner and policy,” said Constable Brenda Gresiuk.

The RCMP maintains that the taser was used to initiate the arrest long before Mr. Hawkins was ever in handcuffs and was necessary because he resisted arrest.

“[Mr. Hawkins] wasn’t following verbal commands,” said Constable Gresiuk. “He was physically resisting officers and interfering with the investigation.”

Lawyer Cameron Ward has been following the taser issue closely since he was retained by the family of Robert Bagnell, a Vancouver resident who died in 2004 after being tasered by police.

Mr. Ward says tasers are often too quickly and improperly used.

“Based on everything I’ve learned about these weapons,” said Mr. Ward, “it’s my view that they should be used as an alternative to lethal force and never as a first resort. I question whether it’s ever necessary for a trained and physically fit police officer to shoot 50,000 volts of electricity.”

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Schools aim for harmony
Officials hammer out action plan. Four girls charged in beating to be arraigned in Youth Court today and tomorrow

JAN RAVENSBERGEN, The [Montreal] Gazette
Published: Tuesday, October 23

The action plan is to replace discord with harmony in Montreal North – and avoid or defuse any more confrontations, especially with racial overtones.

Details, though, remained somewhat loose yesterday.

“We’re going to let the students guide us, in terms of what they feel” are appropriate ways “to bring down the tension,” said Antonio Lacroce, director-general of the English Montreal School Board.

“We’re going to use our best ambassadors, our students,” he added on the eve of this morning’s return to classes by 3,600 adolescents at Lester B. Pearson High School and École secondaire Henri Bourassa.

The schools neighbour each other.

Since last Wednesday, the area has been torn by a flare-up of inter-school violence and vandalism.

Racial tension has been thrust into the public spotlight with a shocking, 64-second video of two white, female, 14-year-old Pearson students being repeatedly punched and kicked.

The video, posted briefly on YouTube and promptly handed over to police by area parents last Thursday, shows the majority of the assailants are black females.

Four female Henri Bourassa students have been charged with assault in connection with the attacks, said Constable Lynne Labelle of Montreal police. Two were arrested over the weekend.

Each is 16 or younger. All four have been released from custody, on condition they avoid contact with the victims and stay away from Pearson. They will be arraigned in Youth Court today and tomorrow.

To ensure order is maintained as classes resume, police reiterated that there will be a heavy and visible police presence around both schools this morning.

“The school will be safe and secure,” Lacroce said. “Both school boards have a zero-tolerance policy for violence.”

“We’re going to work with our kids to bring back, as quickly as possible, some normalcy,” he said. “There was an incident; we’re dealing with it and we’re going to get back on track.”

Through student-council leaders at the respective schools, both student bodies will brainstorm “in the coming days” on imaginative ways to prevent recurrences, he said.

“We’re going to ask them: ‘What is it you think would better the relations? What can we do, together, to get to know each other better?’

“Because, obviously, if we get to know each other better, then the tensions in the communities will certainly de-escalate.”

The overriding goal, Lacroce said, is to “bring the communities together. It is important that we get the kids talking,” and that projects “come directly from them.”

“We’re doing everything we can to get back on a smooth road with our neighbours,” Lacroce said of 1,500-student Pearson school.

At 2,100-student Henri Bourassa, run by the French Commission scolaire de la Pointe de l’Île, “they’re going to be doing the same thing,” Lacroce added, following a meeting with his counterpart at that school commission.

Officials from that school commission did not return repeated phone calls seeking an interview.

After word of the beatings spread, there was a series of window-breakings at Pearson on Thursday and Friday that were attributed to Henri Bourassa students.

The tumult triggered a lockdown at Pearson Thursday, and kept more than half of Pearson’s students away Friday.

“We believe this was very much an isolated incident between some students,” Lacroce said of the beatings.

A total of “15 or 20 students” were involved in the disruptions, he estimated, with “the vast majority doing what they are supposed to do,” at both schools.

One of the two beating victims has acknowledged she used a racial epithet. She was hit by an ice cube at a local fast-food restaurant, she said, and responded to a group of mostly black Henri Bourassa students tossing the ice with: “Stop it, you f—ing n—ers.”

Minutes later, on her way back to Pearson, she was swarmed and attacked.

Between the two schools, “we’re going to get our student groups to meet,” Lacroce said. “We’re also hoping we can get our governing boards to come together.”

Asked whether the mingling will extend to inter-school basketball games or other athletic or social events, Lacroce said it will be up to student council leaders at both schools.

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Vancouver man kicked 90 times, parents’ house firebombed: police
Police seek 6 young people in brutal attack

Thursday, October 18, 2007
CBC News

A 42-year-old Vancouver man was brutally attacked and the front door of his parents’ house was set on fire the same night, said Vancouver police, who are describing the assault as targeted.

Police spokesman Const. Tim Fanning said Thursday officers are investigating the two incidents which took place Monday in East Vancouver and added that the attack itself was captured by a video camera on a nearby business, and showed six people swarm a man getting into his car, knocking him to the ground and brutally beating him.

“He had just walked a co-worker to her vehicle, was going back to his vehicle when you saw first two people come into the frame, pull him away from the driver’s side of the car and then another four rush in,” Fanning said.

The man was kicked about 90 times and suffered injuries to his face and ribs, Fanning said. Police released the video Thursday, and called on the public for help.

“We believe this was a targeted attack,” Fanning said, “The victim is 42 years old and has a business in the area.”

Police said the injured man doesn’t want to speak publicly about what happened.

The man is a prominent businessman in Vancouver’s Chinese community and a partner in Dollar Foods, which is also linked to the Dollar Market in Chinatown.

Police said they believe the six young attackers are between the ages of 17 to 25, and one of them could be female. The attack took place at around 6:30 p.m.

About four hours after the beating, the parents’ home in East Vancouver was firebombed, leaving the front door with extensive damage, police said.

The man’s father, who only identified himself as Mr. Chow, said he was at home asleep when his front door was set on fire.

“I heard a boom sound,” Chow said in Cantonese Chinese. “Then a stack of newspapers was thrown down and that was followed by fire igniting. I smelled gas.”

No one in the house was injured, but Chow said the entire family is shocked by the attack, adding that they haven’t offended anyone, nor has their son.

“We didn’t do anything wrong. We don’t know why this happened. My son never harmed anyone,” he said.

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Ex-cop charged with 1970s sex offences
Former Mountie, now bus supervisor, was then with Vancouver police

Lena Sin, The Province
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2007

Robert Gordon Bodkin, a former Mountie, Vancouver police officer and longtime Coast Mountain Bus transit supervisor is facing sex-crime charges dating back to the 1970s.

Bodkin (also known as Bob Bodkin), of Vancouver, was charged last Friday with two counts of gross indecency and two counts of indecent assault.

Vancouver police say the two complainants — one male and one female — were both under 15 at the time of the alleged offences.

The investigation began about two years ago when information was received by the Vancouver Police Department, spokesman Const. Tim Fanning said yesterday.

Sex-crime investigators have not ruled out the possibility of more victims and are asking for anyone with information to contact police.

The alleged offences relating to the male complainant occurred over the four-year period between Jan. 1, 1972, and Dec. 31, 1975.

Meanwhile, the allegations by the female complainant relate to a two-year period between Sept. 15, 1973, and Dec. 31, 1975.

Bodkin, 62, was a Mountie between 1964 and 1967, and then a Vancouver police officer between 1969 and 1976.

Although the charges stem from Bodkin’s time with the VPD, Fanning said police believe none of the alleged offences occurred while Bodkin was on duty.

After leaving the VPD, Bodkin became a bus driver with the Coast Mountain Bus Co. and was later promoted to transit supervisor.

Vancouver police would not comment on why Bodkin left the force in 1976 to become a bus driver.

“I can’t comment because it’s going to be before the court . . . That information is probably going to be coming out in the court case, but it’s not something we can give out right now,” said Fanning.

The 31-year transit employee was put on administrative leave with pay yesterday when Coast Mountain learned about the charges.

The company knew nothing about the police investigation and will be launching its own internal investigation, said spokesman Doug McDonald.

“We were completely unaware of this,” said McDonald.

“He was a reasonably well-liked employee. I don’t know the man that well, but I have met him. What can I say — he’s a regular guy.”

When reached by phone at his South Vancouver home, Bodkin refused to comment.

Bodkin will be prosecuted under the criminal statute that was in effect at the time of the alleged crimes.

He was released from custody last Friday on a $10,000 recognizance.

On Monday, Bodkin also surrendered his passport to the court registry as part of his bail conditions.

Other conditions require him to not be within one kilometre of any international border or airport.

He must not possess weapons or attend parks, schools, public swimming pools, community centres or any place where children under the age of 18 could be found.

Bodkin’s next court date is scheduled for Nov. 6 at 9:30 a.m. at Vancouver Provincial Court.

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Police in Canada probe second taser death in one week

October 18, 2007

MONTREAL (AFP) — A man suspected of drunk driving died in hospital overnight after police used a taser to subdue him, in Canada’s second recent death plugged to the 50,000-volt stun guns, authorities said Thursday.

According to reports, Quilem Registre, 39, had been stopped Sunday for driving erratically, ramming his car into several vehicles, then became aggressive during questioning by police.

He was taken to hospital for an examination, and died later of heart and kidney failure.

Amnesty International on Thursday repeated its call for a moratorium on the use of tasers.

“We’ve been demanding a moratorium and an inquiry into the possible harm a taser can cause, and asked police to enact strict protocols for its use,” spokeswoman Anne Sainte-Marie told AFP.

A total of 17 Canadian deaths since 2003 have been linked to the device, which stuns a person with 50,000 volts of electricity.

A Polish immigrant died Sunday at the Vancouver airport following a scuffle with federal police, using a taser.

His mother Zosia Cisowski, 61, told the daily Globe and Mail her son was probably confused and anxious over his first-ever flight, and was surely frustrated at being unable to find someone to communicate with him in Polish, his only language.

“They had to give him a chance to talk. My goodness, he was so scared. He was so scared to fly because it was his first time,” she said.

Instead, “they killed him … my only boy,” she said of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers who restrained her “very good son.”

Investigators said Robert Dziekanski, 40, of Pieszyce, Poland, was detained and subdued with a taser for behaving wildly at about 1:30 am Sunday (0830 GMT) in the Vancouver Airport arrivals area. He died shortly afterward.

“The man was throwing chairs, tipped over his own luggage cart, threw a computer off a desk, seemed to be sweating profusely, and was screaming in what sounded like an eastern European language,” Sergeant Pierre Lemaitre of the RCMP said.

“He received one pulse (from a taser) and fell to the ground, but was still kicking and flailing, so we gave him a second pulse and handcuffed him, then he slipped into unconsciousness and died while EMS (Emergency Medical Services) were attending to him.”

His tearful mother told the newspaper Dziekanski was coming to Canada to start a new life. She has been in Canada for about seven years, and was eager to have him here because she is getting older, she said.

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Witness says police wrong on Taser story

CanWest News Service
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An woman who saw police use a Taser on a middle-aged man at Vancouver International Airport questions the RCMP’s version of what happened.

The RCMP were “too harsh” in their treatment of the unruly man, who died early Sunday after being shot by a stun gun minutes earlier by police in the airport’s secured international arrivals area, a woman who saw the incident said in a TV interview yesterday.

She also said that the RCMP’s description of the event differs from what she saw. And she believes he was shot with a Taser four times, not twice, as police have said.

“I saw two of them [police officers]; they Tasered him at the same time,” Sima Ashrafina told CTV news. “Now [the police spokesman] is trying to justify that the way we train our officers, they’re aiming one at a time. That is not true. That’s not what happened.”

Ashrafina, who was at the airport to pick up her husband, captured some of the incident on her cellphone camera.

“It was too harsh, that’s my personal opinion,” said the North Vancouver woman.

She said five police officers arrived. The RCMP have said three showed up.

“RCMP came like 1:35 a.m., and he died 1:39 a.m., she said. Ashrafina was upset that no attempt was made to get an interpreter, or to calm the man down.

The man spoke what is believed to be an eastern European language, said police. There were papers and a passport on the man’s possession, but police are refusing to say what country he is from or his name.

Sixteen people have died in Canada in the past four years after being Tasered by police.

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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.

Canadian cases

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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Workers end sit-in of Amcan Castings plants in Hamilton and Burlington

Canadian Press
October 15, 2007

HAMILTON – A nearly five-day sit-in by members of the United Steelworkers union at Amcan Castings in Hamilton and Burlington, Ont., has ended.

Workers were told Wednesday that their plant will be liquidated and they were demanding proper severance pay when the doors close.

The agreed settlement provides $2.5 million held in an escrow account to ensure severance will be paid.

About 170 people are employed at the plant and about 100 more are currently laid off.

The union’s Ontario and Atlantic director Wayne Fraser says workers have been through similar scenarios too many times in the last several months.

He says plant closures and runaway companies are forcing workers into economic and emotional hardship.

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Vancouver to get its garbage picked up

Canadian Press
October 14, 2007

VANCOUVER — Vancouver’s outside workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a tentative deal that will end a strike and bring relief to fed-up residents whose garbage has been piling up for almost three months.

City workers voted 85 per cent to accept the deal and parks workers voted 81 per cent in favour.

CUPE Local 1004 president Mike Jackson says he’s relieved with the settlement but adds the bitterness between workers and the city will take some time to deal with.

He says Vancouverites can look forward to having their garbage picked up starting Monday morning.

The deal covering about 2,000 workers includes a 17.5-per-cent pay hike over five years, a $1,000 signing bonus, improved benefits and the establishment of a joint committee to address the assignment of overtime.

The city’s inside workers had also been on strike but approved a new contract last week. About 800 CUPE members who work at the city’s libraries remain off the job.

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