Thursday, November 15, 2007
Robert Dziekanski, 40, was immigrating from Pieszyce, Poland to live with his mother, Zofia Cisowski, in Kamloops, British Columbia. He did not clear customs at the airport for over eight hours and his mother was unable to locate him when she went to meet him at the airport. Since Dziekanski did not speak English airport security guards were unable to properly communicate with him. He started yelling at the airport staff because of this. He used chairs to prop open a door between a customs clearing area and a public lounge, he then threw a computer and threw a small table at a luggage section window.
He had calmed down and was standing with his hands at his side in the customs room until four Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers arrived and tasered the man, at least twice. Dziekanski began to convulse and was tasered a second time after falling to the ground, where the four officers pinned him down and handcuffed him. He screamed before he stopped moving. Paramedics arrived at the scene, but were unable to revive him and pronounced him dead.
Dziekanski’s mother had told him to wait in the luggage area where she would meet him, not realizing that this was inside the airport’s security zone, which was inaccessible to her. Arriving international passengers need to pass through customs first, before being able to meet people waiting to pick them up. His mother had tried in vain to get a message to him and eventually left the airport when told by airport staff that he wasn’t there.
Paul Pritchard, who had just arrived from China back to Victoria, shot a video of the incident and gave it to police. The police promised they would return the video within 48 hours. They gave him back his camera without the video.
Pritchard immediately hired a lawyer, held his own news conference, and threatened that he would take them to court to get it back.
CBC, CTV and Global television paid Pritchard several thousand dollars for the video, and he says he will use the money to take care of his father.
“It was against his [Pritchard’s father] wishes completely and my lawyer’s wishes as well. Profit is such an ugly word, and I hope people realize that it’s not a personal profit,” said Pritchard.
“I extend my heartfelt condolences to Mr. Dziekanski’s family, knowing that I could not hope to speak to the loss that they have suffered. I would also like to express my concerns for those people who were in any way touched by this extraordinary and tragic occurrence – our employees working that night, the various agencies involved, the emergency responders and the passengers who may have come across the scene,” Larry Berg, President and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority said on November 1.
According to a RCMP spokesman in Vancouver, the four officers involved in the case will testify in court under the coroners request, but it is expected to happen sometime next year.
Polish ambassador to Canada, Piotr Ogrodzinski, said “Mr. Dziekanski (was) a person who was agitated, frustrated, I think terrified, but not aggressive. He was not making a gesture that he intended to fight anybody” and “he didn’t know what to do. In fact, he was in search (of) help. That is why it is a really very sad and deeply moving film to watch.”
The incident is being investigated by the RCMP, the British Columbia Coroner’s Service, the Vancouver International Airport Authority, and the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.