Archive for November, 2007

Man dies after violent arrest by RCMP
Several investigations open as police use of force implicated in death

Stuart Hunter, The Province [British Columbia]
Published: Sunday, November 25, 2007

An autopsy tentatively scheduled for tomorrow will likely determine whether a Chilliwack man, who died in police custody, died as the result of being shot with a Taser — which would make it the second high-profile death associated with the weapon in the Lower Mainland in just over a month.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Peter German confirmed the death of Robert Thurston Knipstrom, 36, in Surrey Memorial Hospital shortly after midnight yesterday.

Knipstrom was apprehended by police Monday after a violent altercation in Chilliwack’s Eze Rent-It Centre. He fought hand-to-hand with the two attending officers before being pepper-sprayed, hit with a baton and Tasered.

“I wish to express our sincere condolences to the family for the loss of Mr. Knipstrom,” German told a news conference yesterday. “Every death is tragic and this is no exception.

“An independent officer review, which is standard procedure in any RCMP in-custody death, has been ordered in this case.”

Via the RCMP, the dead man’s father, Bob Knipstrom, later issued a statement.

“The family is shocked and saddened by the recent incident between our son and the Chilliwack RCMP,” Bob Knipstrom said. “We apologize on behalf of our son to the staff of the [rental store] for any distress that was caused because of this incident.”

Russ Walsh, owner of Eze Rent-It Centre since 1986, witnessed the incident and seemed surprised by the family’s apology.

“I was in the shop when it happened,” an emotional Walsh said from his Rosedale home. “I can’t comment on the events that happened, but I believe our whole staff was shaken by what transpired.

“It’s tragic and my heart goes out to the family. I’ve been in rentals for 34 years and you never expect something like this to happen. We’re just a small business in the Valley.”

RCMP Insp. Brendan Fitzpatrick of the Major Crime section, said it’s unclear what role the Taser played in Knipstrom’s death.

“The Taser was deployed and at this juncture in the investigation we have no information to tell us whether it made contact or was effective.”

Police said Knipstrom was known to them and that they had violent confrontations with him in the past.

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Rock knocks out Nanaimo school district computers

Nanaimo, British Columbia, November 2007

According to a Nanaimo Daily News report dated November 24, 2007, rocks were thrown through the windows of the band room at Nanaimo District Secondary School and at the district administration office, tipping over an air conditioner, which cools the district’s communications servers and helps to keep them operational.

The district’s auto-dial phone system, which calls substitute staff when regulars are sick or away from work, stopped receiving and sending calls by 10pm on Thursday, November 22. Staff showed up to work Friday morning and found they had lost access to all servers and the internet. Teachers across the district had no e-mail and many schools would have been without substitutes and support staff if not for prepared staff at the district office, who implemented a backup plan to get staff to the schools.

District staff “had no idea what had been requested and what had been filled,” said communications officer Donna Reimer. They “had to wait until people started arriving at the schools” in order to figure out who wasn’t there and then manually fill the positions that were vacant.

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Inquest set for custody death

CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, November 23, 2007

VANCOUVER ISLAND [British Columbia] – An inquest into a man’s death while in custody at the Tofino RCMP cells will be held in February.

Christopher Tom, 38, of the Opitsaht First Nation, was detained by police Aug. 4 for being drunk in a public place. He was taken to the Tofino RCMP detachment where later he was discovered unresponsive in cells. He was taken to Tofino General Hospital where, despite medical treatment, he died Aug. 5. An autopsy showed no trauma to his body. Further tests were conducted.

The coroners service inquest is scheduled for three days beginning Feb. 11 at the Port Alberni Law Courts. Presiding coroner Beth Larcombe and a five-person jury will publicly hear evidence from subpoenaed witnesses in order to determine facts surrounding the death. The jury can make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances in the future.

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Guelph, Ontario: Attack on development

[Contributed by Anonymous on Thursday, November 22, 2007, to infoshop.org.inews]

On the night of November 10, 2007 we slashed five tires on three dump trucks at the Reids Heritage Homes facility on Hood Street.

This was the first time we’ve ever done something like this. We did it because we want to do our part to stop the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver, B.C. and the developments and gentrification associated with it.

Coast to coast, in every town and every city business as usual needs to be ground to a halt. As far as Guelph is concerned, we’ll do our part if you do yours!

We are everywhere.

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Buses burned, slashed and smashed at airport depot

Friday, November 23, 2007
CBC News [Newfoundland and Labrador]

Vandalism at a bus depot in St. John’s Friday morning caused more than $500,000 damage to buses and other vehicles, a cab company owner said.

Peter Gulliver, who owns City Wide Taxi & Bus Charters, said one of his cab drivers called him just before 6 a.m., saying there was a fire at the depot near the airport.

When Gulliver arrived, he discovered broken windows, torn seats and fire extinguishers that had been set off. Eighteen buses had been damaged, he said.

“We’re looking at two motor coaches burnt completely. We got about a hundred windows broke out — mirrors and taillights, not counting that. Car windows beat out. Just unreal, you wouldn’t believe the damage,” he said.

The vandals also damaged vehicles belonging to other companies.

Gulliver said it will take at least a week to get operations back to normal, and that repairs to his fleet will cost at least $500,000.

Security cameras at the depot captured video images of three men vandalizing the vehicles. Police are examining the video as part of their investigation.

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2 arrested in picket line confrontation

Friday, November 23, 2007
CBC News [Newfoundland and Labrador]

Police arrested two pickets Thursday at the entrance to heavy equipment dealer Toromont Cat in St. John’s.

Striking workers from the International Union of Operating Engineers confronted non-unionized employees who were trying to cross the picket line on Kenmount Road.

St. John’s and District Labour Council president Sam Kelly said the company has been using replacement workers for at least two weeks.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary confirmed two people on the picket line were arrested and a vehicle was damaged.

Fifty Toromont Cat workers in St. John’s, Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook and Labrador went on strike in August seeking better pensions and wages.

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N.S. taser victim ‘was running for his life’

The Globe and Mail
November 23, 2007

HALIFAX — A man who died a day after being tasered in what police describe as a violent attempt to escape custody was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who believed another police tasering two years ago weakened his heart, his sister says.

“He can become aggressive in [his] psychotic states, but essentially fearful,” Joanna Blair said of her brother, Howard Hyde. “He did have a fear of police. Since the tasering incident he had a fear of taser guns. I feel he was running for his life.”

Mr. Hyde died yesterday morning in the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, about 30 hours after Halifax Regional Police arrested him for assault.

He was tasered as he attempted to flee police headquarters during booking, Deputy Chief Tony Burbridge said in an interview.

Police gave Mr. Hyde CPR, the senior officer said, and he received “a clean bill of health” after a visit to hospital.

He died the next day, prompting Nova Scotia Justice Minister Cecil Clarke to order a ministerial review of taser use.

His common law wife, Karen Ellet, said Mr. Hyde, who was “off his meds” was taken into custody following a domestic dispute.

The review is just one of a growing number of taser-related probes launched since Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who became agitated at the Vancouver airport, died after being shocked twice by RCMP officers.

The events leading up to his death were captured on amateur video and its airing has sparked a national debate on use of the stun weapons.

The House of Commons public safety committee voted unanimously yesterday to investigate the death of Mr. Dziekanski. Also yesterday, Yukon’s Department of Justice announced an immediate moratorium on use of the weapons.

An endorsement was heard, though, from the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police, which spent hours discussing taser use over the past two days. Their unanimous decision was to continue to use the devices, RCMP Superintendent Gord Tomlinson aid. And Halifax Regional Police said yesterday that they would continue to use tasers because “all medical evidence to date indicates that this tool is safe.”

What killed Mr. Hyde remains unknown.

The 45-year-old man grew up in New York State and came to Nova Scotia in the late 1970s. By then he had finished high school and started, but dropped out of, college, his sister said. He was in normal physical condition, as far as she knew, apart from a sleep disorder that could keep him up for several days.

Mr. Hyde was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his early 20s, but disputed the diagnosis and did not regularly take his medication, his sister said. He had psychotic episodes, including one two years ago that she said attracted the attention of the police.

“He refused to answer the door,” Ms. Blair said. “They broke in and found him in squalid conditions, emaciated. He was tasered. I don’t know why he was tasered.”

Ms. Blair said that her brother was a karaoke lover whose fondness for music was a constant through his troubled life. An amateur musician, he played several instruments and harboured a dream of being a celebrity.

“He did have a fantasy about being famous,” she said. “And here he is; he achieved it overnight in his death.”

The last day of Mr. Hyde’s life began when he was taken into custody early Wednesday.

Deputy Chief Burbridge said that Mr. Hyde became violent in the fingerprint room. Officers used the taser when he attempted to leave the area behind the booking counter, the senior officer said, but the struggle continued and Mr. Hyde managed to leap the counter. He was tackled in the hallway.

The man could have been shocked more than once, Deputy Chief Burbridge said. At least one electroshock weapon was present at the second altercation, he said, but the surveillance camera was on an angle that made it impossible to see whether a second tasering had occurred.

Deputy Chief Burbridge said that he had not inquired among officers about the possibility of additional taser use, saying that the investigation is in the hands of the RMCP. The probe is expected to include camera footage, witness accounts, the routine taser report and events during Mr. Hyde’s time in the hands of medical professionals and then correctional officers.

The officers involved in the incident are continuing their normal duties, a Halifax police spokeswoman said, based on the internal belief that they followed proper procedures and did nothing wrong.

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Complainant had photos of Taser burns
But cops closed probe since he ‘was no longer interested’

Joey Thompson, The Province [British Columbia]
Published: Friday, November 23, 2007

A Kamloops man has been waiting more than two years for the outcome of his claim to the RCMP public-complaints office that he suffered severe scorch wounds from a Taser-toting officer.

Jean-Marc Phillips filed a statement — with photos of his raw, oozing burns and lacerations — to the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP in 2005, but it appears his case was shelved because Kamloops officers wrongly told investigators the 48-year-old wasn’t interested in pursuing it.

Phillips filed the complaint some time after he was arrested and jailed in June 2004 by a pack of Mounties who, he claims, beat him in a parking lot and shot him in the shoulder with a Taser gun before forcing him into a police cruiser.

He said they drove him to the detachment, where he was Tasered twice in the stomach, kicked, punched and ordered to strip. He says he was held naked in a cell for a day and then charged with assaulting Const. Craig Blanchard.

He was released with all but the shirt on his back. The Mounties said the shirt had been trashed.

The assault charge was dismissed last year by Provincial Court Judge James Gordon, who concluded that the officers were likely the bullies and strongly suspected they were a lot rougher than necessary.

The judge said he was troubled by the fact only one officer testified during the trial and that they offered no evidence to back their claim that they were forced to get rough when Phillips resisted arrest.

Blanchard denied using a Taser and testified he saw no injuries on Phillips during or after his arrest.

But a doctor reported finding Taser wounds on Phillips, leading Gordon to question the cops.

“Why were no videos placed before the court of what took place in the police bay or the book-in centre or in police cells?” he asked.

“What I have heard ought to cause those in charge . . . to make further inquiry, in the hope the sort of conduct Mr. Phillips alleges has not become a practice within this detachment,” he warned.

Phillips, meanwhile, had no idea the complaint he had filed to CPC the year previous was collecting dust. In a letter to the western regional office, Kamloops Staff-Sgt. Bill Goughnour told a complaints analyst they had terminated the internal investigation while “the matter was pending in court.”

He said they reopened the case after Phillips was cleared in 2006 but closed it again after the tile-layer’s lawyer told him not to give police any further information.

“On that basis we determined that Phillips was no longer interested, and our file was closed, with no further action to be taken.”

CPC is required to return a file to the source detachment for an initial investigation by its officers, a process that has invited much criticism because it is open to abuse by officers who refuse to co-operate or provide the necessary reports.

Phillips’ mom, Sigrid, said her son didn’t know until last month that the public office had closed the file.

“If he’s committed a crime, fine, put him in jail,” said the retired

elementary-school teacher. “But they have no right to torture him.”

She said she was told yesterday that CPC and the professional-standards branch of the RCMP have now reopened the investigation.

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Cops caught on arrest video cleared of criminal charges

Thursday, November 22, 2007
CBC News [Calgary, Alberta]

Two Calgary police officers captured on videotape dragging and punching a handcuffed man during an arrest could be back patrolling next week after the Crown decided not to lay criminal charges in the incident.

Police Chief Rick Hanson told CBC News Thursday that Const. Jason Schneider and Const. Blake VanHereweghe are relieved they will not face charges.

A four-minute video was sent anonymously to the police department, mayor’s office and several media outlets in April showing the officers subduing a handcuffed man on the ground during a drug-related arrest. They punch the man twice in the face, and later drag him a short distance by his arms.

Charges of crack cocaine possession were later dropped against the suspect.

A letter accompanying the video, which appeared to be recorded from an apartment balcony above a downtown alley, expressed concern officers used excessive force.

The two constables had been suspended from duty with pay during the Crown’s investigation, but Hanson placed them on administrative duty shortly after taking over as chief last month.

With the end of the Crown’s probe, Hanson said the officers now face an internal review.

“We then initiate an internal investigation to see if there’s any breach under the Police Act. We review their release from duties and we’ll be making a decision later today or tomorrow on their return to work,” the chief said. “They could be back at work next week.”

Hanson said the two officers may have to go through some additional training or face a verbal reprimand.

“The range of discipline under the Police Act ranges everything from just a verbal reprimand right up to more serious ramifications, and we can look at the situation and determine if there was any kind of policy breach or maybe a better way it could have been done,” Hanson said.

“If this can be done through remedial training, then we look at those options.”

A civil lawsuit launched by Oktopi Randy Koney, the man being arrested in the video, is still before the courts.

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Former soldier sues after being Tasered

Wed Nov 21, 2007
[Winnipeg Free Press, Manitoba]

A Portage man has launched legal action against the RCMP and Manitoba Justice over an incident four years ago where he claims he was repeatedly struck by a Taser weapon while handcuffed.

In a report on the CBC National television news, Matthew Gray said Mounties fired the taser weapon eight times while he had been handcuffed in an ambulance and at hospital.

Gray told the CBC that the burns from the Taser weapons caused his skin to smell like burning roast beef.

Gray, a former soldier who suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, is seeking $20 million in damages in legal action against the Attorney General of Canada, six active officers of the RCMP and two retired officers.

Gray has also launched legal actions against the Great West Life Assurance Company and the Royal Bank of Canada Insurance Services for damages. He has also launched legal action against the Crown Attorney’s office and the Attorney General of Manitoba, alleging his Charter Rights had been violated.

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