The Robert Dziekanski Taser video

There's a huge buzz at the moment surrounding the 10 minutes of footage showing the final moments in the life of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski, Tasered by the RCMP at the Vancouver Airport. This footage was shot by returning Vancouverite Paul Pritchard.

Runs 10:00.





Nov 15, 2007 at 7:19pm

I'm writing about the taser incident at YVR. This subject has created a lot of conversation at home and work and I needed to get something off my chest.

Why is it that we choose to vilify our police at every opportunity possible? These men and women do a job that most Canadians don't want to do, nor could do. They put their lives in danger on a daily basis, deal with junkies, murderers, rapists, and the like. They are sworn at, spit on and physically assaulted. And to top it all off, they are rarely, if ever thanked.

Sharing the news with this YVR story are two separate stories of RCMP officers who have been killed on duty in the last month--showing the grim reality of the job. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a police officers job to take abuse, be assaulted or killed on the job. But it happens. Most of the time it is an event that happens in the blink of an eye. An officer has a split second to react to a situation that could result in his or her death. This is something that 90% of the public doesn't come close to dealing with. If the average Canadian doesn't react in time at work the worst thing that happens is missing the FedEx truck.

So I ask again, why is it that when police respond to a situation where a man is throwing computer parts and chairs INSIDE an international airport and react using the tools they are given and trained to use that we automatically jump on them and condemn them?

These officers used a tool designed for the exact situation in which it was used. The officers told the man to stop and get down. They were obviously police, yet Dziekanski walked away ignoring them. I have traveled the world. Airports are confusing when you are in a foreign country. No matter what, I'm on my best behavior. And no matter how frustrated, jet lagged or exhausted, it would take me 3 seconds to recognize a police officer in any country on this planet. As for the gesture to stop, it is the same no matter where you live or language you speak.

These officers used the taser to get this man to the ground. They used it so that they did not have to put their lives at risk. Yes, they could have used pepper spray, but this in an international airport with a in-coming flight. Imagine the panic and chaos caused when 300 people get off a plane into a cloud of pepper spray. Yes they could have physically taken him down. They out numbered him. But what is to say Dziekanski wasn't high, armed, or infected with HIV. These are the real risks of getting into a physical confrontation. I have seen officers try to take a person down by force. A person who was outnumbered, but who got the upper hand. Officers get shot with their own guns when over powered. Why is it OK for the officer's life to be put at risk when it doesn't have to be?

The taser is a non-lethal tool. On some occasions it does kill. This is unfortunate, but a reality. This event is an unfortunate accident, but an accident. Just because some tourist at an airport takes a video, doesn't make him an expert on police procedure, and that goes for the majority of people that I have seen on Canadian TV giving their two bits after watching this tape. This story has made it to a reputable US news station and guess what? They had a taser instructor (a real expert) saying the event is unfortunate but would be handled in much the same way as in the US, and that the police simply used a tool on their tool belt.

The police were called to an international airport to respond to a man who was throwing computers and chairs in a security zone; a man who ignored their gestures and commands to stop. These officers reacted in an appropriate manner with the safety of travelers and themselves in mind. But in a knee jerk reaction everyone condemns them.

My heart goes out to the mother of Robert Dziekanski, but it also goes out to the officers who did their job and used non-lethal force only to have a man die. I'm sure they are feeling horrible as a result of this incident... and even worse knowing the public they have chosen to protect has once again turned on them.

John Burns

Nov 15, 2007 at 9:10pm

Thank you, Duanebg

You make your points very well.

Mike Cantelon

Nov 16, 2007 at 12:14am

Is being a police officer dangerous? Yes. Were police officers dropping like flies before the advent of the taser? No.

The police outnumbered him, had him surrounded, and were perfectly capable of restraining him without using a randomly lethal weapon. He was unarmed, had not attacked anybody, and was walking away from them when they tasered him. It was an unnecessary and cowardly act.

I have a friend who does security in a hospital. They deal with situations like this regularly without resorting to the use of randomly lethal weapons.


Nov 19, 2007 at 3:42am

As Mike correctly stated, this was a gutless act and as far as I'm concerned the cop who fired the taser should be charged with manslaughter, along with the three others who were accomplices to the fact. If four burly cops with flak jackets and several security guards can't take down a guy whose only weapons are chairs and pc hardware, then the safety and security of the public is in real danger.

I wonder if those who condone the officer's actions might feel differently if the victim was a friend or relative of theirs. I would certainly want to know why an interpretor couldn't be found in an international airport to assist with communicating to the man before "peace officers" resorted to zapping the life out of him with a 100,000 volt electrical charge.

Pepper spray could have been used as another alternative. If an in-coming flight with passengers was arriving shortly, it would have taken one phone call to have them routed elsewhere. At any rate, would the passengers be so concerned about the prospect of inhaling a bit of cayenne powder that they would have rather this man be physically assaulted with a potentially deadly weapon?

I can't imagine any member of the tax-paying public desiring this level of service and protection from someone merely throwing a major temper tantrum. Save the lethal weapons for the killers, gang members, pushers, home invaders, rapists and the rest of the scum that pervades our society.


Nov 19, 2007 at 12:58pm

While I feel sympathy for Robert Dziekanski's relatives, clearly Mr. Dziekanski acted improperly, especially considering that he was in an airport and would be aware of recent upgraded security measures around the world if he reads the news.

It is possible that Mr. Dziekanski suffered a panic attack - evident from his heavy breathing and confusion.

It's courteous and advised to learn some basic words in the language of the country you are proposing to move to. It can make the difference between life and death. It once did for me!

People must respect and obey the laws of the country they are visiting or immigrating to.

The police did what was expected of them and they did the right thing. It is unfortunate Mr. Dziekanski died but what if he had been a true threat to the country and lives of all those at the airport. Often the last people to learn that a person is a serial killer or thief are those closest to them. If the public wants to be protected, then it must be... from all people who display such unusual behaviour as Mr. Dziekanski did. Despite what a great guy his relatives say he was, we cannot know for certain what was going through his mind at the time of that unfortunate event. It looked as though he was in great fear and for no specific reason. We do not know what the state of health care is in his country of origin but it is possible that some physical or psychological illness (diagnosed or not) that Mr. Dziekanski may have suffered from may be responsible for his behaviour.

John Burns

Nov 19, 2007 at 1:09pm

You know, I think most people would agree that throwing furniture and keyboards (even PC keyboards) is not a good idea in protected areas.

But the consensus arising is - and bloody well should be - that there should be some entry-level type restraint (pepper spray, Bat nets, jujitsu) before you go the full lethal-Taser route.

Even for would-be serial killers, which clearly Dziekanski was not.

What intrigues me, though, is how knowing basics of a language saved your life. How did that work?

Marian Zapasnik

Nov 19, 2007 at 3:40pm

They hunt him and kill like hi was a wild animal. He was just domestic cat hungry, frustrated and scared.
They were acting like dogs not properly trained for the job. Responsibility on the leash holders

Marian Zapasnik

Nov 19, 2007 at 3:54pm

There was a lot of a talk in all kind of media about cop killers, not much about ordinary people unnecessary killed by cops. Because of this, we learn how many people are killed every year by police, that suppose to "serve and defend".


Nov 19, 2007 at 6:36pm

This murder should easily be avoided if the Airport staff responded to Zofia Cisowski diligently about her son being still held inside and made just minimum effort to connect them.

Anybody concerned about language problems? Come on. Hundreds of travellers who do not speak English enter Canadian airports daily. Majority of them make similar arrangements as Zofia Cisowski did with her son. She came to pick him up at the airport. This arrangement should easily solve any difficulties created by language barrier. However, when Zofia asked repeatedly Airport’s staff about her missing son, she was given false and very unreasonable answer that her son was not at the Airport. Come on. How on the Earth, the Airport staff could have any difficulty knowing that a person was still at the Airport. Obviously, they knew it. The flight arrived, and he was on the list of passengers. If he did not come out, it was obvious that he was still inside. Also, they held him for ten hours, so it must be a reason for it, and somebody from the Airport’s staff must have kept record of Mr. Dziekanski being held there. Somebody must have monitored the progress of clearing issues that prevented Mr. Dziekanski to be allowed to come out of the passengers’ arrival gate and to meet with his Mother.

Russian, Russian”¦ guessing game. Was it really so difficult for Security to know that he spoke Polish? Really? Every passenger has travel documents. The Airport is the easiest place on the Earth to figure out which language a traveller speaks. Just ask about the documents and you will know it instantly. Have Security or Police asked him about the documents? Have they asked about his ID the Airport’s staff who called the Police to help them out? Obviously they must have known whom they kept inside the Airport and for what reason. It looks like the order of events was not logical. They took deadly action first, and asked a question whom they killed afterwards. Were Security or four Police officers willing to communicate with Mr. Dziekanski at all? A woman-bystander did, but they did not. They knew that he spoke one of the foreign languages, and in this case it did not matter Russian or any other. The point was that they were just satisfied that he did not speak English to take so dangerous action on him. The only way of communication was to send him a double dose of high voltage electrical current merely few seconds after their arrival, and subsequently to finish their action by depriving a dying man from a gasp of air. Then, no reanimation for next eight minutes. Hmmm”¦ What training have four Police officers had that prevented them from knowing obvious: one really does not need paramedics’ help after such period of time of no pulse and no breathing.

Medical problems? Maybe, but Mr. Dziekanski immigrated legally to Canada, therefore he had to have thorough medical examination that satisfied Canadian Embassy in Poland. It was done by Canadian (not Polish) standards in medical facilities that are designated by Canadian Embassy in Poland. If Canadian authorities in Poland said that Mr. Dziekanski was suitable medically to live in Canada based on their own set of medical examinations, so it answers concerns one of the poster above who wrote about possible physical or mental problem that Mr. Dziekanski could have suffered. Even if any physical or mental problems were there (diagnosed or not diagnosed), it should not be a justification for killing this man. After all, we do not kill Canadians who suffer from mental or physical problems here.

Mike Cantelon

Nov 19, 2007 at 6:53pm

Killing an unarmed man who hadn't attacked anyone was not, as you suggest, the right thing to do. Asking "what if" he was a serial killer or terrorist is not relevant. There was nothing to suggest he was either of these things.

Suggesting that those who "display such unusual behaviour" need to be killed to protect society is not reasonable.