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Lawyer Don Rosenbloom, representing the Polish government, talks to media following the Braidwood Inquiry on March 4, 2009 in Vancouver.
Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER — Lawyers for two of the four Mounties involved in the in-custody death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport told the Braidwood inquiry Tuesday that their clients acted appropriately and professionally.
David Butcher, the lawyer representing the most junior officer, Const. Bill Bentley, said the evidence showed Dziekanski was emotionally disturbed, delirious and was acting angrily and aggressively before he was Tasered five times and handcuffed at Vancouver International Airport after 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 14, 2007.
Dziekanski, 40, had travelled from Poland to start a new life in Canada with his mother, Zofia Cisowski. He died at the airport without ever connecting with his mother after spending 11 hours looking for her.
Butcher urged inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood to find Bentley did nothing to contribute to Dziekanski's death.
"He acted in accordance with his training," the lawyer said during his final submission to the inquiry, which continues today.
Butcher reminded Braidwood that a policeman's job is not easy and is often dangerous, forcing police to react to events with split-second judgment.
"Police don't have to be right — they can have misinterpreted what was happening here, but it's their belief of what is happening that is important," Butcher said.
He added police must have a reasonable belief that there is a threat of harm to police or public safety in order to use force to react to a situation, which was what happened in the Dziekanski case.
Butcher urged Braidwood to "ignore the call of being an armchair quarterback" and instead judge the officers within the context of police making a judgment seconds after encountering Dziekanski.
Ted Beaubier, the lawyer for Const. Gerry Rundel, maintained his client was inexperienced but did nothing wrong in his encounter with Dziekanski.
He said Rundel had no control over how the situation unfolded, did not deploy the Taser and was not part of a cover-up conspiracy as alleged by the lawyer for Poland.
"There is nothing to support that," Beaubier said.
Earlier in the day, Don Rosenbloom, the lawyer representing Poland at the inquiry, blasted the four officers involved in the incident for showing a "reckless and callous disregard for the life of Robert Dziekanski."
The lawyer said the Polish man "was a victim of incompetence, misconduct and a reckless disregard of his life."
He argued police had no justification for initially Tasering Dziekanski, who was calm and trying to obey conflicting police commands but could speak no English.
It was inexcusable that one of the officers, Cpl. Monty Robinson, put his knee on the back of Dziekanski's neck for 24 seconds while Dziekanski was being handcuffed, the lawyer said.
He said this rendered Dziekanski unconscious, causing him to begin turning blue.
The four officers failed to provide proper medical care and monitoring of his vital signs, which indicated Dziekanski was headed for cardiac arrest, he added.
After Dziekanski died, the four officers collaborated and fabricated their stories in police statements, Rosenbloom said. The lawyers for Bentley and Rundel denied this.
The RCMP also released incorrect information immediately after the incident, telling the public, among other things, that Dziekanski was Tasered only twice by three officers, Rosenbloom said.
"The RCMP deliberately and negligently disseminated this misinformation and chose not to correct the record for more than a year," Rosenbloom said.
He said Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, the media relations officer who initially released the incorrect information, testified he wanted to correct it but was told not to because it might have compromised the investigation.
Rosenbloom urged the commissioner to make a finding of misconduct against the senior officer who made that order — RCMP Supt. Wayne Rideout.
The lawyer also asked the commissioner to make findings of misconduct against Lemaitre and Cpl. Dale Carr for their roles in the RCMP "misinformation campaign" for disseminating false information.
Mitch Taylor, the lawyer representing the federal government, which has jurisdiction for the customs officers at the airport and the RCMP, told the commissioner he had made written submissions and did not plan to make further oral submissions.
"The government of Canada expresses its sorrow and its sincere regret for Mr. Dziekanski's death and its sincere regret to Ms. Cisowski for the death of her son," Taylor told the inquiry.