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‘One death…one too many’

The hole ripped in her mentally ill son’s T-shirt is tiny, but his fearand paranoia remain after he was Tasered by Vancouver police, hismother says.



The hole ripped in her mentally ill son’s T-shirt is tiny, but his fear and paranoia remain after he was Tasered by Vancouver police, his mother says.

Cathy Gallagher, testifying before a public inquiry, called for a ban on the use of Tasers.

Christopher Gallagher, 37, who is bipolar, set his hospital gown on fire in his home last February as a cleansing ritual.

When worried neighbours called the fire department, the call was referred to the Vancouver police.

Minutes later, six police officers forced their way into Gallagher’s Kitsilano home and ordered him to lie face-down. When he didn’t, he was shot once with the Taser gun, and then a second time as he struggled.

“If there’s one death, that’s one too many,” Cathy Gallagher testified yesterday, adding her son has remained fearful and paranoid since the incident.

“He doesn’t talk about it and after he got sent home, there was a period when he didn’t speak at all. He says ‘I have nothing to say.’”

All her son would tell her, she said, was he couldn’t breathe. She brought the red T-shirt Gallagher wore that day to show the inquiry commissioner, retired judge Tom Braidwood. A tiny hole was in the fabric over his heart.

Braidwood is hearing from witnesses about the use of the Taser weapon in B.C. and will make recommendations to the provincial government about whether the weapon should continue to be used and under what circumstances.

Joe Gallagher, Christopher’s father, also testified, saying his son is no longer the same man after the incident three months ago.

Last month, in a submission to a House of Commons committee, which is also looking into the use of Tasers, the B.C. Schizophrenia Society urged MPs not to consider banning the weapon.

The first part of public inquiry began this week and is focusing on the medical and technical aspects of the Taser and police procedures. A second part to the inquiry, looking into Dziekanski’s death, will be held after a decision is made on whether to lay charges against the RCMP officers involved in the incident.

 
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