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Dziekanski stayed calm in spite of limo driver yelling at him, inquiry hears

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Robert Dziekanski was involved in a loud confrontation with a limousine driver in the minutes before he was confronted by RCMP officers and stunned with a Taser at Vancouver airport.

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Robert Dziekanski was involved in a loud confrontation with a limousine driver in the minutes before he was confronted by RCMP officers and stunned with a Taser at Vancouver airport.

But the driver told a public inquiry into the Polish man's death that Dziekanski stayed calm even though he appeared confused and distraught.

Limousine driver Lorne Meltzer went to the airport to pick up a passenger in the early morning hours of Oct. 14, 2007, and first noticed Dziekanski blocking a security door as he was trying to enter.

Meltzer said Tuesday that Dziekanski - who had been in the airport for nearly 10 hours at that point and didn't speak English - was holding a chair and appeared to be trying to get through the door.

"I saw this distraught gentleman, angry, distraught," he said. "I can't remember how hard he was trying to smash the window at the doors, he was trying to get through after the doors had closed."

When Meltzer put his hands in his pocket to get out an access card that would activate the door, he said Dziekanski raised his fist, but he lowered his hand when he saw what Meltzer was holding.

When the door opened, Dziekanski still wouldn't move out of the way.

"I said, 'Look you f**king asshole, I need to get through here,"' said Meltzer.

"I don't know if he appeared to understand my English, but he calmed down."

Meltzer said that when he was yelling at Dziekanski, he told him he would call the police and they would use a Taser.

Meltzer, who is more than six feet tall with a slim build, said he was standing very close to Dziekanski and using a "loud and angry" voice.

But Meltzer said aside from the brief moment Dziekanski lifted his fist, he didn't feel threatened.

"I could go to the airport on any given day, and show you probably 30 to 50 confused people," said Meltzer.

"He wasn't outwardly attacking people or mad at people, he was just distraught, just tired."

He said Dziekanski became agitated again when the security door began opening and closing automatically. Shortly after, Meltzer notified an airport security guard and called 911.

He said he approached the four RCMP officers when they arrived to tell them about the distraught man.

Meltzer said Dziekanski again looked calm when the Mounties arrived and asked for his passport, motioning for him to calm down, but as officers began to surround him he appeared to raise an object above his head.

A lawyer for one of the RCMP officers has said a bystander's video shows Dziekanski picking up a stapler right before he was shocked - which was cited by the Crown in their decision not to lay charges against any of the officers involved.

"I remember him pulling it out of his pocket, raising it up, opening it and all of the sudden - aaagh!" said Meltzer, mimicking Dziekanski's screams as he was stunned.

However, Meltzer later admitted he didn't know whether Dziekanski raised the object before or as he was being stunned, and acknowledged his memory may have been coloured by the video a witness took about the incident.

Meltzer also said he later thought one of the words Dziekanski spoke in Polish during their interaction may have been the word for help.

However, the word Meltzer used in court is not the word for help, a fact the lawyer for Dziekanski's mother later confirmed outside the inquiry.

Meltzer, who has publicly criticized the RCMP and the airport for their actions, also said there was a lack of security at the airport.

"I did think it was a joke," he said.

Walter Kosteckyj, lawyer for Dziekanski's mother, has previously focused on the lack of help at the airport, especially in the early morning hours when the confrontations occurred.

Kosteckyj told reporters outside the inquiry that he believes Meltzer's confrontation may have further agitated Dziekanski.

"The question has always been what was it that set Mr. Dziekanski off, and it's fairly clear what set him off, he had a verbal altercation," said Kosteckyj.

Another man who encountered Dziekanski just minutes before Meltzer also said Tuesday that Dziekanski was calm.

Jame Canzon, a cleaner at the airport, told the inquiry that he walked through the security door that Dziekanski had been blocking without incident.

Canzon - who is just five feet tall - says Dziekanski was sweating and speaking in Polish, but he didn't think he posed any threat.

"I'm not afraid, because he didn't do anything against me," said Canzon.

 
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