Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

B.C. Coroner Rules Dziekanski Taser Death a Homicide

Robert Dziekanski

Robert Dziekanski

A coroner in British Columbia has ruled the taser death of would-be Polish immigrant to Canada Robert Dziekanski, 40, a homicide. Dziekanski, a Polish native and non-English or French speaker, arrived at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007 planning to immigrate and live with his mother, Zofia Cisowski, a resident of Kamloops, British Columbia. Cisowski had reportedly told her son that she would wait for him in the baggage claim area. She, however, was not allowed in the baggage claim area, and eventually left when she was told that Dziekanski, who had actually already completed the first part of the immigration process at the airport, had missed his flight from Poland.

Exact events are still a bit sketchy, but Dziekanski wandered the airport for nine hours, trying to find his mother, trying to immigrate, trying to find anyone who spoke Polish and he finally started to freak out, throwing and breaking stuff. Most people would. He was confronted by four Mounties, who reportedly stunned the screaming man multiple times, before and after cuffing him. He died. The cell phone video shown below of the incident was seized by police and kept confidential until the owner sued for its return, won and released it to the public.

In the face of public outrage, the Canadian government ordered an inquiry, and appointed former judge Thomas Braidwood to conduct it. Coroner Patrick Cullinane’s finding confirms the conclusions reached in Braidwood’s report: “The finding of Mr. Justice Braidwood was that Mr. Dziekanski died as a result of a cardiac arrhythmia. He also found that both the multiple deployments of the conducted energy weapon along with the physical altercation contributed to the circumstance leading to the fatal arrhythmia. I concur with the findings of Mr. Justice Braidwood.”

Though Canadian law doesn’t apparently require that a responsible party be found and tried every time the word homicide is used, Braidwood’s report concluded that the four officers acted precipitously, used excessive force, and perjured themselves when giving testimony. He concluded that tasers can in fact kill under certain circumstances, that officers need specialized training, that reports should be filed whenever a taser is used, and that the devices themselves should be subjected to independent testing.

Slideshow: Tased and Abused

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