Top Mounties facing criminal probe related to Dziekanski Tasering death
VANCOUVER -- Canada’s top Mountie is among a group of current and former police leaders named in a complaint over how the force handled the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski in 2007 — a complaint documents say is connected now to a criminal investigation.
Ontario’s provincial police force has started “Project Eastbourne,” a probe of allegations that RCMP brass didn’t support the officers involved in the incident, the force confirmed to CTV News Vancouver. The new investigation is the latest chapter in a legal saga that has lasted over a decade.
The complaint, by two of the four officers involved in the incident, centres around the allegation that they were scapegoated, that they followed training at the time that said Tasers were safe, and documents that could have exonerated them weren’t produced, said Shirley Heafey, a former chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission.
“It’s significant because it’s the first time that the top level of the RCMP, the commissioners, the deputy commissioners, are going to be investigated for wrongdoing. The rank and file have always paid the price for everything that’s gone wrong,” said Heafey, who has been following the case.
“This is a criminal investigation into obstruction of justice,” she said.
OPP Acting Staff Sgt. Kerry Schmidt didn’t mention any current or former officers by name.
“I can confirm that the OPP are investigating at the request of the RCMP into allegations of wrongdoing during a high-profile incident in 2007 involving current and former RCMP leaders. This investigation has been referred to our criminal investigations branch,” he said.
Nothing has been proven in court in these new allegations.
Robert Dziekanski was a Polish immigrant who came to Canada in 2007. Video shows him disoriented after wandering the airport for hours, smashing a computer monitor and a table to the ground and picking up a stapler. Four officers arrive and – after about 25 seconds – use the Taser.
The explanations given at the time by Mounties were contradicted by that video. Two of the four Mounties — Monty Robinson and Kwesi Millington — were convicted of perjury, and the other two, Bill Bentley and Gerry Rundel, were found not guilty.
A public inquiry questioned the safety of Tasers and laid the foundation for the creation of British Columbia’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office. And a coroner’s inquest examined what role the controversy played in the suicide death of the RCMP spokesperson at the time, Pierre Lemaitre.
Robinson and Rundel complained in December 2019 that they had been unfairly treated. The Mounties opened a file, and then in July referred the case to the OPP.
A letter obtained by CTV News names three officers: Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr (Ret.) and Inspector Kevin Cyr.
“At this point in time, the OPP have been engaged to conduct a full investigation into the allegations,” says Staff Sgt. Frederick Fontaine in the letter, dated Aug. 14. “The public complaint will be held in abeyance until the completion of the OPP investigation.”
Brenda Butterworth-Carr is now B.C.’s director of police services; her office referred questions by CTV News to the Mounties.
All of them were not in their positions at the time of the 2007 incident, which suggests the OPP could be looking at more-recent actions, said Heafey.
OPP investigators are expected to review case documents for the next few weeks before coming to B.C. to conduct interviews.