No clear answers at Dziekanski inquiry

VANCOUVER — The testimony of two senior Mounties accomplished little Tuesday to clear up an apparent contradiction between an internal RCMP email and what the four officers who stunned Robert Dziekanski with a Taser at Vancouver’s airport told a public inquiry.

Reporters watch RCMP Chief Supt. Dick Bent give his testimony via a TV during the Braidwood Inquiry

VANCOUVER — The testimony of two senior Mounties accomplished little Tuesday to clear up an apparent contradiction between an internal RCMP email and what the four officers who stunned Robert Dziekanski with a Taser at Vancouver’s airport told a public inquiry.

The inquiry into Dziekanski’s death in October 2007 was brought to a halt in June after the email surfaced, with Commissioner Thomas Braidwood ordering a three-month break to investigate its contents.

The email suggested the officers arrived at Vancouver’s airport already planning to use the Taser before they ever set eyes on Dziekanski, while the Mounties had testified they only resorted to the stun gun when the Polish immigrant picked up a stapler.

But Braidwood received few concrete answers as the inquiry resumed, with a two-year-old conversation scrutinized and interpreted like a game of telephone.

At issue is an email from Chief Supt. Dick Bent to his superior as the force scrambled to prepare a media strategy for the pending release of an eyewitness video of the confrontation.

In the email, dated Nov. 5, 2007, Bent recalled a conversation with Supt. Wayne Rideout, who was in charge of criminal investigations in the region and overseeing the investigation.

“Spoke to Wayne and he indicated that the members . . . had discussed the response en route and decided that if he (Dziekanski) did not comply that they would go to CEW (Taser),” wrote Bent.

On Tuesday, Bent stood by that email.

“Are you confident you did your best to record accurately what you were told by Supt. Rideout,” asked inquiry lawyer Art Vertlieb.

“Yes, certainly, these are serious matters we don’t take lightly, so I would have done it to the best of my ability, yes,” said Bent.

Still, Bent acknowledged there have been no other references to the officers forming a plan, even after the RCMP turned over 18,000 additional documents during the summer.

And he said after almost two years, he can’t really recall the conversation.

“I’m just asking you, could you have misunderstood what he said?” asked Rideout’s lawyer, Alex Pringle.

“I could have misunderstood parts of it, definitely,” replied Bent.

That’s exactly what Rideout is expected to say when he testifies this week: That Bent must have been mistaken.

Pringle said as much before the hearings broke in June, insisting his client never told Bent the officers arrived with a plan.

And Pringle noted on Tuesday that Bent never followed up on the suggestion, even though it appeared to contradict the officers’ statements to investigators and the RCMP’s own Taser policies.

The recipient of the email, Assistant Commissioner Al Macintyre, told the inquiry he didn’t take any steps to check the accuracy of Bent’s email, either.

Instead, he erased it. Macintyre said he couldn’t specifically recall the email, but said he must have deleted it because it was missing from his inbox.

“It was hearsay information from another individual to Bent, and frankly, I receive information all day long that people might think I need to know,” said Macintyre.

“At that point, I would have simply read the email and deleted it.”

In fact, a number of emails that Macintyre received and sent regarding Dziekanski’s death appear to have been deleted — which Macintyre didn’t deny but for which he could offer no explanation.

.

The inquiry continues through the rest of the week, also hearing from three other witnesses unrelated to the email exchange.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin on Oct. 5, after which Braidwood will begin writing his final report and make recommendations to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

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