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.