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opinion

Canadians cannot believe a word the RCMP have to say over the taser death of Robert Dziekanski. The cruelty of the response by four Mounties to the Polish man's plight is a shocking example of police inhumanity. The disinformation campaign waged later can only further harm the reputation and credibility of the force. How, when an RCMP spokesman stands up in the future and calmly gives a version of events involving a member, can he be trusted?

What is clear is that in the aftermath of the Oct. 14 tasering at Vancouver International Airport, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre provided a version of events to the public that contrasts sharply with what was captured on the now world-famous taser death video.

Witnesses said Mr. Dziekanski wasn't a threat to anybody, but Sgt. Lemaitre told CBC Television that police arrived and, despite efforts to calm him, were met aggressively and confrontationally by Mr. Dziekanski. "The officers were using gestures saying, you know, relax, relax, put your hands on the desk there where the computer was taken; to no avail, [he was]still throwing things around," said Sgt. Lemaitre.

He gave a similar account to the Vancouver Sun: "The officers tried to speak to him, tried to calm him down, but he continued to throw things around and yell and scream." The police spokesman also told a CTV reporter that "he was pounding on the windows behind us, he was throwing chairs."

The video shows Mr. Dziekanski rearranging furniture, and throwing something earlier on, but not as the four officers approached him. Instead, he raised his hands and moved away a few steps. He gave the appearance not of posing a threat but of exhibiting resignation. There is no evidence on the video of any attempt to negotiate with the man, or to calm him in the few seconds before he was hit with 50,000 volts.

The first taser blow left him immediately convulsed and screaming on the floor. Sgt. Lemaitre's claim that the taser "didn't seem to have any kind of effect on him" is laughable. The officer also said that "even after the handcuffs, he continued to fight." That is the RCMP's stated justification for tasering Mr. Dziekanski again, and putting pressure on what Sgt. Lemaitre claimed was his "shoulders." The video shows Mr. Dziekanski writhing, not fighting, before he was hit again with the taser, and reveals that pressure was placed not on his shoulders but on his neck, with a knee.

Without the video, shot by Paul Pritchard, it would have been the word of four Mounties against those of a few civilian witnesses. Now, the entire world knows how the RCMP callously misread the situation and brutally dispatched a distressed and exhausted man from Poland.

A charitable interpretation of the statements made by Sgt. Lemaitre would be that he did not have all the information, or was himself duped by officers involved in Mr. Dziekanski's killing. Then again, it may be that Sgt. Lemaitre was complicit in an attempt to whitewash the affair. Only the RCMP know the truth. Don't expect a straight answer.