The RCMP officers who tazed a new immigrant to death because they thought he was threatening them with a stapler should face perjury charges, British Columbia’s Criminal Justice Branch said Friday.
Robert Dziekański was a newly landed Polish immigrant on October 13th, 2007 when he became lost and disoriented in the Vancouver airport. Unable to communicate with anyone in his native Polish and unable to find his mother, Dziekański wandered the arrivals hall becoming increasingly frustrated for nearly ten hours. RCMP officers were called after Dziekański became agitated. They encountered Dziekański and instructed him to place his hands on a counter, at which point Dziekański picked up a stapler. The RCMP supervisor ordered the Taser used within 25 seconds of their arrival, even though none of them were under any threat of physical danger. Dziekański was tazed multiple times, writhing in pain before losing consciousness. The RCMP officers provided no assistance. Paramedics arrived some 15 minutes later and attempted to revive Dziekański, but he was pronounced dead on the scene.
The only reason the public is aware of any of these details is because a bystander captured a video of the events as they transpired. The RCMP initially seized the video, and the owner had to take the RCMP to court to retrieve it. Once it was released to several media outlets, it became clear that the RCMP’s version of events was entirely untrue.
The RCMP was incorrect on the number of officers present (RCMP stated 3, video proved 4); the “threatening” stature and behavior of Dziekański (RCMP stated he was “yelling and throwing things”; the video revealed that Dziekański was calm and seemed relieved to see the officers); the measures taken prior to the deployment of the Taser (RCMP claimed they thought of using pepper spray, but decided against it because there were bystanders; the video proved this untrue); the amount of assistance given to Dziekański once he was unconscious (the RCMP claimed his pulse was taken and he was checked; he was not touched until the paramedics arrived).
The death of Dziekański set off an avalanche of public outrage, lines of inquiry, investigation into the safety of Tasers, the conduct of the RCMP and the conduct of airport staff — security, immigration and others.
In 2008, a public inquiry opened into the death of Robert Dziekański, as well as into the safety of Tasers by law enforcement. The inquiry came up with an exhaustive list of conclusions and recommendations to be implemented by nearly everyone who encountered Dziekański that day — and stated squarely that the RCMP officers were not justified in the use of Tasers on Dziekanski. The inquiry also found that the RCMP officers’ testimony about their actions on the day Dziekanski died was deliberately false.
After the Inquiry’s findings were made public, the Province appointed a Special Prosecutor to investigate the possibility of laying charges against the RCMP officers involved in the case. On Friday, the prosecutor recommended that perjury charges be laid against the four RCMP officers involved in the death of Dziekański. They did not, however, recommend any further legal action against the officers, stating that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.
The public — and the Polish embassy — is by no means satisfied. The galling abuse by the RCMP, their complete and utter misreading of the situation and their deathly overreaction, their unjustified use of force, their attempt to cover it up — all of these make their decisions to lie on the stand minor in comparison.
This is not justice for Robert Dziekański.
Photo credit: centralasian on flickr