Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Canada Taser Update: An interview with the videographer who's sueing the RCMP (rush transcript; includes audio)

From CBC's "As it happens" (audio from this interview can be found here)

For the Mounties, there is mounting pressure -- over a few minutes of videotape. The RCMP now faces a lawsuit over video that was shot at the Vancouver International Airport about two weeks ago -- when police tasered Robert Dziekanski, who was visiting Canada from Poland. He later died. The RCMP convinced the owner of the tape to hand it over, and they promised to give it right back. They have not.

Paul Pritchard is the man who shot the tape and launched the lawsuit [against the RCMP], and we reached him in Victoria.

(rush transcript follows)

- Mr Pritchard, can you tell us what you actually captured on film at the [Vancouver] airport when mister Dziekanski died.

I was filming, I was sleeping at the airport actually, I had missed a connecting flight so I was right in the international arrival lobby there. I woke up to the sound of banging on glass, that's what kind of startled me and I woke up.

There was a man there obviously kind of confused trying to get back into the international airport [section], yet he had all his suitcases with him which was kind of strange to see.

We stood up and watched this happen for twenty-five minutes and called security a couple of times. Nobody came.

People kept trying to talk to him, trying to get him out of there, trying to calm him down, and that's what brought the agitation-level so high.

Two security guys showed up, I thought it was the police, I have them.. the camera is rolling at this point.

- Why did you take out your camera at this point?

That's funny, I had totally forgotten that I had the camera with me, I had all my bags with me. Once [Robert Dziekanski] got into the isolated area, he just stood at the doors and barricaded all the suitcases at the doors [..]. He would open the glass door and yell something out [..] one word in Polish and kept saying this one word and sticking out his arm. [...]

I said to the guy next to me, "why am I not filming this?" He said "you got a camera" and I said "yes" and I grabbed my bag and started taping everything.

- At what point did the RCMP arrive?

Right after security, within a minute after security [had arrived].

- And what happened?

Security ran up to the door and stopped when they saw [Robert Dziekanski]. He had a chair in his hand and put it down, he had a keyboard in his hand and he put it down, and security didn't know what to do.

Police right away ran in, three big cops ran in right after.

I heard one of the policeman say "Can I Taser him?" or "Should I Taser him?" .
The reply was "yes"

He hopped over the gates into the passage way, through the doors, the three of them, kind of made a triangle toward him. There was a desk behind the door. [Robert Dziekanski] tried to move behind it. He made no threat that I saw, toward [the police]. One [RCMP officer] followed [Robert Dziekanski] behind the desk; the other two [RCMP officers] followed the other way and then they just tasered him.

-How long after the RCMP arrived did they taser Mr. Dziekanski?

Right away, within ten seconds of entering the same room as him. Right away.

- And all of this you've got on tape?

All of this is on tape, yes.

- When did the RCMP approach you to get your tape?

Quite a while afterwards. A security [guard] saw me filming, told me to stop, tried to get me to stop. I refused of course.

- Why did he tell you to stop?

I don't know, he just [wanted me to] stop taping, he made these gestures for me to quit. Obviously I know my right and I kept the camera going. After the police tasered him there was a struggle on the floor and they handcuffed him and then he was laying there, what we thought unconscious for quite a while. This is when I stopped filming him. Nothing was happening, they were just laying beside him. He was just kind of laying there, with no movement coming from him. [...]

At this point one of the RCMP officers jumped up and ran out of the room and I heard "code red" being jelled. The officer left the airport, and it was a good 8 minutes, 5 to 10 minutes anyway, before medical help arrived. As soon as they came in they started to give him CPR right away. This made me wonder why CPR wasn't administered earlier.

-You had stopped filming earlier then this...

I had stopped filming a few minuted after he had stopped moving. I didn't resume filming when CPR was administered, for respect.

- When did the RCMP ask for the tape?

I was dealing with a couple of different detectives. They told we are going to need a copy, and this was no problem [for me]; I was fully cooperating with them. At first they told us that we were going down to the station to get a copy made. I was going to go with them, and I would get my footage back [right after]. That was the plan. Then he comes back saying, "what if we just take it - we don't have the computers necessary to [make the copy], it's going to take us a day or two to do it - what if we just take it from you and we will get it back from you within 48 hours?" [..]

I said "Yes, if I'm getting it back, that's no problem. I'm here to help, I'm on the good side here." So [I] had a verbal agreement [with Constable Mulhall] that within 48 hours [the video] was going to be returned to me. It was until the next day that I got the phone call [from Constable Mulhall] saying "Sorry, we're going to return your camera but were going to [withhold your] footage: You're are not getting [the footage] back for 1.5 to 2.5 years. "

- Did they tell you why they wouldn't be giving [your footage] back?

They just said that it would interfere with the investigation. It didn't really made any sense to me.

- Were you compelled to give the tape over to [the RCMP]?

No. I knew I didn't have to, I know my right[s]. I knew it was my camera and that I didn't have to. As I said, I was trying to help out the situation. I wasn't against [the RCMP] in this; we're all trying to do the right thing. With the promise that I would get the video back I had no problem helping him out. If I had know that I would not be getting the tape back, I wouldn't have given it to them, and that's the bottom line.

- So you regret doing it now?

Of course I regret doing it, yes.

- Do you think the police want to prevent the public from seeing the incident on tape?

At first the RCMP called back and I sought legal advice as my right as a Canadian citizen. They've got my possession, and what can I do? I talked to Paul Pierson, my lawyer, about it. He said "they can't do that".

We wrote a formal letter saying that we want [the footage] back. The RCMP said "OK, no problem, we're going to give it back". So [my lawyer and I] thought this was all done. Then we received a call saying "Sorry, we're retracting our statements. We are going back on what we said (again), and we can't just give it back to you".

- So what do you make of the RCMP's concerns that you might compromise their investigation if witnesses saw this tape.

This is what I don't understand. They're saying they don't want to taint witness's stories and they don't want to taint other people's opinion on what happened, but, what is on tape IS what happened. Maybe [this tape] will change witness's [opinion] who got it wrong, but it's all on tape, it's all there, crystal clear zoom in zoom out footage, it is what happened. [..] The speculation and guesswork will all be over as soon as everybody sees it.

- And because it is not edited but all in real time, you can actually see how long after the police arrived that he was actually tasered. [This] is the issue at question right now, how long [the RCMP] actually tried to help things before they actually used there tasers.

That part is crystal clear, yes.

- Would you consider to make the commitment to not make the tape public until the investigation is over?

I don't know. Once it comes back, I want to give it to Mr. Dziekanski mother and his lawyer. Obviously they want a copy. My first thing is to get it out to the media, but if it is comprimising other situation then...

- Have you met Mr. Dziekanski mother?

I haven't met her, I've only seen her on television and my lawyer and her lawyer have been in contact.

- How distressed was it when you saw her statement that she was trying for 18 hours to get to see her son and then....

That's kind of what made me feel compelled to do this as my duty [..]
- Listen to the whole conversation at the CBC website: As it happens
- More at G&M: Taser Photographer sues RCMP

1 comment:

Justice for Robert D. said...

If you are appalled with Robert Dziekanski's killing then write to your MP asking for an inquiry into the roles of the RCMP and the airport authorities in the matter. A sample letter and the email addresses of the MP's has been made available at http://justice4robertd.blogspot.com .

Spread the word.

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