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Another RCMP officer retracts statements at Dziekanski inquiry

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Robert Dziekanski was not, as he has been portrayed in the past, the agitated man who withstood the shock from a Taser and swung a stapler at police, the most senior RCMP officer admits.

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Robert Dziekanski was not, as he has been portrayed in the past, the agitated man who withstood the shock from a Taser and swung a stapler at police, the most senior RCMP officer admits.

In the hours and days after Dziekanski collapsed and died on the floor of Vancouver's airport in October 2007, the four RCMP officers involved told investigators he was an aggressive threat to public safety, even after he took the first shock from an RCMP Taser.

The officers said they had to wrestle Dziekanski to the ground - evidence disputed by a witness video of Dziekanski's dying moments.

Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson told a public inquiry into Dziekanski's death Wednesday that he made erroneous statements to those homicide investigators.

"I didn't articulate it well," said Robinson, the final officer to appear at the inquiry, during his final day of testimony.

"I'm blending the whole interaction," he said. "I did the best job I could. I admit there are inaccuracies."

Dziekanski, a Polish man who didn't speak English, died on the floor of the arrivals terminal. The Taser was used five times, although it's not clear if all of those firings actually connected with the man.

Robinson has insisted he was simply ineloquent when he gave two separate statements to investigators probing the in-custody death. The three other officers have said they gave their best recollections of a fast-paced, stressful event.

Robinson acknowledged Wednesday that Dziekanski was relatively calm when police arrived and initially followed their directions.

He also conceded that Dziekanski didn't swing the stapler, as officers told investigators, and collapsed to the floor on his own after the first shock. Their initial accounts said he continued standing after the first hit.

All the officers have retracted parts of their statements to homicide investigators when confronted with the bystander's video. Some of the officers' errors - for instance, that Dziekanski had to be wrestled to the floor - were consistent among them.

The lawyer for the Polish government offered his own theory.

"You and your fellow officers collaborated to fabricate your story in the expectation that it would justify your conduct the night Mr. Dziekanski died," said Don Rosenbloom.

"I deny that," replied Robinson.

"I'm lastly going to suggest to you that you have been lying under oath to this commission - do you deny that?"

"I've been telling the truth," Robinson said.

The inconsistencies have raised questions about the Crown's decision last year not to charge the four officers, and prompted calls from the Polish community to re-open the case.

When announcing their decision last December, B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch said the bystander's video supported the officers' accounts.

"This is so obvious, it should be re-opened, because there was no justification not to charge them," Zygmunt Riddle, a Polish man who has sent an Internet petition to the provincial government, said outside the inquiry.

Jurek Baltakis, a friend of Dziekanski's mother who says he represents the Polish community in her home town of Kamloops, B.C., said he wants the investigation re-opened, but by a special prosecutor, not the RCMP.

A Crown spokesman in B.C. has said it would be up to homicide investigators to decide whether to re-open the case.

The RCMP have said the decision will have to wait until after the inquiry.

Regardless of what happens in Canada prosecutors in Poland are conducting their own investigation, which could result in charges there.

Przemyslaw Jenke, the country's consul in Vancouver, said Polish law allows charges to be laid for crimes committed in other countries against Polish citizens.

"The Polish penal code does provide for this kind of situation," said Jenke, who has been attending the inquiry.

Jenke said Polish prosecutors asked Canadian officials for information related to the investigation soon after Dziekanski died, but have so far received no help.

If Polish prosecutors do decide to lay charges, Jenke said the officers could be tried in absentia.

"We do not have an extradition treaty between Poland and Canada, so (extradition) is rather unlikely," he said.

 
 
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