Seeking Justice in Taser Tragedy

November 22, 2007 3:33 am Last Updated: June 19, 2016 3:42 am

GLIWICE, Poland—Friends and family of Robert Dziekanski, who died Oct. 14 after being Tasered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at the Vancouver International Airport, are demanding justice and a ban on the weapons many blame for Dziekanski’s death.

Dziekanski died just minutes after being zapped twice by Tasers in the international arrivals area of the airport. A graphic video taken by a bystander shows RCMP officers shooting Dziekanski with the weapons almost immediately after their arrival at the scene. The stun gun sends 50,000 volts at its intended target.

After shooting Dziekanski with Tasers, officers proceeded to restrain and handcuff him as he screamed and convulsed on the floor, the video shows.

“He was barely breathing, and they still cuffed him,” said Iwona Kosowski after viewing the clip that shows one of her closest friends dying in obvious agony.

The Epoch Times spoke with the Kosowski family in their modest apartment, a floor above Dziekanski’s in the city of Gliwice in Poland’s southwestern industrial and mining heartland.

Kosowski said she speaks with Dziekanski’s mother, Zofia Cisowski often since the latter emigrated to Canada in 1999. She said Cisowski now calls regularly to commiserate her son’s death.

“When we speak together on the phone, we both end up in tears, every time,” says Kosowski.

“He was deathly afraid of flying. The whole trip, he was alone. He didn’t know a word of English, not even the word ‘immigration.’ He wasn’t sure if he would make it [to Canada] and how he would handle it when he arrived. He didn’t understand what they were saying, and he lost his cool,” says Kosowski, of Dziekanski’s erratic behavior, which led to police being called.

She also believes that, being a heavy smoker, he was suffering from nicotine withdrawal after spending 10 hours in immigration without a translator. The video shows Dziekanski trying to barricade himself inside the secure area. What caused him to be delayed for so long in the secure area remains unknown.

“Compared to what I might have done in that situation, I think he was relatively calm,” says Mrs. Kosowski.

The pair, along with Kosowski’s husband are demanding justice for their friend and son. Having seen some of the footage of Dziekanski’s death on Polish television, Kosowski is convinced that he was murdered.

“They went much too far,” she says, suggesting even that life in prison might be an appropriate punishment for the perpetrators. During the interview, a local police officer arrived with a summons for Mrs. Kosowski to appear at the state prosecutor’s office the following day. She didn’t know what the summons was for but it may be linked to a Polish investigation of the incident.

Dziekanski’s mother is pursuing another direction for justice, says Mrs. Kosowski. She has hired a lawyer to seek damages, not only for a case of wrongful death, but also potentially for libel.

Some of the media reports about the case have been filled with alleged falsehoods, according to mother and friend, citing apparent examples of both Canadian and Polish media trying to sensationalize Dziekanski’s death by stretching and sometimes even inventing information.

DISTRAUGHT: Iwona Kosowski, who was a close friend of Robert Dziekanski and his mother, recounts her experience following Dziekanski's death. (Jan Jekielek/The Epoch Times)
DISTRAUGHT: Iwona Kosowski, who was a close friend of Robert Dziekanski and his mother, recounts her experience following Dziekanski’s death. (Jan Jekielek/The Epoch Times)

In a recent press release Taser International has also leveled accusation of sensationalism against the media. The company blames Dziekanski’s death on a condition called “excited delirium” and says it is impossible that the man died from a Taser-induced heart attack.

In Poland the victim’s friends and family have been subject to an around-the-clock media onslaught, with multiple vans parked in front of their homes and reporters milling about near their home.

“We have no life anymore. All the television stations are standing under our windows, never leaving. They keep knocking, keep knocking, wanting to do interviews. They are relentless,” says Bogdan, Mrs. Kosowski’s husband.

Dziekanski’s friends also say the reports have misrepresented the man’s relationship with his common-law wife, Elzbieta Dibon. The reality, says Mrs. Kosowski, was the marriage was not rosy as depicted, but difficult instead.

Dibon was unavailable for comment, but a Nov. 19 CanWest News Service interview with her implies that her relationship with Dziekanski was positive and that she hoped to join him in Canada. A local reporter told The Epoch Times that Mrs. Dibon had fallen into a depressed state and was not talking.

A public memorial service was held for Robert Dziekanski at a church in Kamloops, British Columbia, where his mother lives. Simultaneous services took place at other locations across the country, as well as at the airport where Dziekanski died.

Hundreds attended the services in Kamloops and at the airport. Candlelight vigils were also held at several locations.

Cisowski personally invited the family of Robert Bagnell to attend the Kamloops service. Bagnell, 54, died after being Tasered by Vancouver police in the bathroom of a downtown Vancouver hotel in 2004.

Bagnell’s mother, Riki Bagnell, said she would like to represent all Canadians who have died as a result of being Tasered as well as offer comfort to Dzienski’s grieving mother.

“We are hoping for a complete ban on using these weapons [Tasers],” says Mrs. Kosowki.

Several investigations into the incident are taking place: a comprehensive probe by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team in British Columbia, composed of members from the RCMP and four separate police forces; an inquest by the British Columbia Coroner’s office; an independent investigation by the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP; and an internal investigation by the RCMP into how officers should use the Taser.

The Vancouver Airport Authority has said it will announce changes by mid-December to both airport security and customer and language services as a result of the incident.