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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Canadian Police Sued Over Taser Death of Polish Man

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - Four members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Tasered a Polish immigrant multiple times at the Vancouver International Airport, causing his death, his mother claims in a lawsuit against the officers, the airport authority, and the British Columbia and Canadian governments.

Zofia Cisowski claims she's developed a psychiatric illness since seeing video footage of her distressed son, Robert Dziekanski, being Tasered and immediately restrained by four officers at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007. The officers had responded to a call from airport staff about an irate man in the international customs area of the airport.

According to her complaint in British Columbia Supreme Court, Cisowski had arranged to meet her son at the baggage claim, but unknown to her, the baggage area for international passengers was in a secure area where she wasn't allowed. Dziekanski didn't speak any English and had never travelled on an airplane before, the complaint says.

After being stuck in the customs area for several hours, Dziekanski became "visibly confused, disoriented and distressed," the complaint says. Both he and his mother were offered little help by airport staff, and Cisowski returned to her home after being told her son hadn't arrived.

Four members of the RCMP, defendants Kwesi Millington, Gerry Rundel, Bill Bentley and Benjamin Robinson, confronted Dziekanski, according to the lawsuit, and within less than 30 seconds, shot him four times with a Taser. He fell to the ground after the first shot, and was pinned to the ground and placed in handcuffs after a few more jolts.

Instead of calling airport emergency services, which would've responded quicker than an ambulance, the complaint says, airport staff called an ambulance and failed to get Dziekanski the "immediate medical attention" he needed. He died following the officers' assault, the complaint says.

In the days after the death, the RCMP released allegedly false and misleading statements about the incident, the suit claims, and Cisowski only learned of her son's true fate after a witness' cell phone video of the confrontation was released by court order.

"The RCMP made these misrepresentations, failed to correct the misrepresentations, sought to suppress the [eyewitness video] and sought to discredit independent eye witnesses, all with the intent of protecting the reputation of the RCMP and ensuring the public in general and Ms. Cisowski in particular did not learn the truth of what happened," the complaint states.

Cisowski is represented by Walter Kosteckyj and Joseph J. Arvay.

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