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Agence France Presse

Video of Taser Death in Canada Sparks Probe


VANCOUVER, Canada - A video of a Polish man dying while being restrained with a taser by Canadian policemen sparked a diplomatic protest and controversy on Thursday over the use of stun guns.1116 08Canada's public safety minister ordered a review of Taser stun guns one day after the release of a tourist's video of the death of Robert Dziekanski.

The 40-year-old immigrant died on October 14 about 10 hours after he arrived at western Canada's biggest airport here.

Dziekanski, who had traveled to Canada to live with his mother, died after a bizarre series of events that culminated in police approaching him and, in less than one minute, zapping him repeatedly with a Taser stun gun.

"I was quite shocked," Piotr Ogrodzinski, the Polish ambassador to Canada, told AFP after viewing the video. "Perhaps (the) police officers' reaction was not suitable to the circumstances."

Ogrodzinski said he formally requested details from Canada of the investigation into Dziekanski's death, and also met with the national police complaints commissioner.

The video was taken by Paul Pritchard, a Canadian traveler at the scene. It was not released for one month because police held onto it until Pritchard filed a court action to have it returned.

The video shows Dziekanski, appearing distraught and frightened, moving around furniture in the airport and at one point throwing a computer off a desk onto the ground.

He is watched by security guards who stand back and can be heard saying, "he's speaking Russian."

Then four officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada's national police force, enter the frame. They walk toward Dziekanski and surround him. He turns away from them, raising his hands with his back to them.

In one hand he holds what looks like a stapler.

The police close in on Dziekanski and stun him repeatedly with a Taser device. Dziekanski screams and writhes on the floor, and the policemen pile on top of him and pin him down. Within minutes he falls still.

RCMP spokesman Corporal Dale Carr said an investigation by a homicide team will take another 30 to 45 days.

He urged the public to withhold their judgment of what they see on the video until the police can explain their conduct while testifying under oath at a coroner's inquest.

"The inquest will be the venue in which the contents of the video and the actions of police will be scrutinized," said Carr in a statement.

A preliminary coroner's report earlier showed there were no drugs or alcohol in Dziekanski's body, and that the cause of death was uncertain.

Thursday, shortly after calls by the opposition parties for a review of the stun weapons, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told the House of Commons he had ordered "a review related to the use of Tasers."

In British Columbia province, others demanded that a special prosecutor be appointed to examine the police actions.

Meanwhile, thousands of people across Canada phoned radio talk shows or posted comments on media websites, most expressing anger.

"I am so ashamed as a Canadian," wrote Joey Tavares from Toronto on the daily Globe and Mail's site, in one typical post. "I feel so sorry for the Dziekanski family. I cannot believe that this happened."

Dziekanski had traveled from Pieszyce, Poland, to Canada to live with his mother, said a family lawyer, who noted Dziekanski spoke only Polish, and had never before wandered far from Pieszyce.

Due to a mix-up at the airport, he had waited for his mother for almost 10 hours in the secure customs area, while she waited for him in the arrivals area on the other side of a wall.

After unsuccessfully asking airport and immigration staff for help finding out if her son had arrived, she left.

No one at the airport seemed to have noticed Dziekanski waiting for hours in the secure area.

© 2007 Agence France Presse

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