May 24, 2007

Coffee with Riki and Patti, Part 2

Robert Wayne Bagnell as a teen.Bob's Mum, Riki Bagnell, and his sister, Patti Gillman, were in Vancouver to attend the second part of the inquest into Bob's unfortunate death three years ago. It seems mind-boggling that it has taken three years to get this far with the inquest into Bob's death.

Fighting the Fight...

In spite of their sad personal loss and suffering, they have continued to advocate not only for their own interests, but on behalf of current and future victims:
  • They want to see Amnesty International's recommendation come to pass: A moratorium on Taser use pending independent research into the risks associated with Taser use, and for
  • They called for funding for families of Taser victims, so they can afford to pay a lawyer to represent their interests at an inquest.

In May 2007, The official Coroner's Inquest into the death of Robert Wayne Bagnell finished. Although the proceedings of the inquest are closed, there seems to me to be little closure on the issue in concrete terms.

In a May 25, 2007 Vancouver Sun article titled "No recommendations from Taser death inquiry", it said:

The five-man jury concluded Robert Wayne Bagnell died on June 23, 2004 of a "restraint-associated cardiac arrest" due to acute cocaine intoxication and psychosis.

But that's not the whole story.
Here's a synopsis of events from Cameron Ward, the lawyer for the Bagnell family:

"Robert Bagnell, 44, died on June 23, 2004. Two days later, Vancouver police contacted his next of kin to tell them that Robert had died of a probable cocaine overdose. A month later, Mr. Bagnell’s family learned for the first time from media reports that Vancouver police had used a Taser gun on him. Chief Jamie Graham defended the late disclosure, saying that he had waited for toxicology results before going public with new information. (Despite numerous requests, the family still has not received any toxicology reports). Then on August 17, 2004, the Vancouver Police Department held another news conference to announce that their members used the Taser in order to rescue Mr. Bagnell from a fire in his rooming house. (The Bagnell family has since learned that the “fire” was a minor electrical fault on the first floor, and likely not a threat to anyone on the fifth floor, where Mr. Bagnell was)."

"...the VPD acknowledged that [Bagnell] was not a threat to anyone and that he was not involved in the commission of a crime when they sent an ERT (SWAT) team into the washroom Robert was in. The police said Bagnell was shocked with 50,000 volts so they could "rescue" him from a "fire" in his building. Although the family doubts these claims, they have been unable to obtain copies of police or autopsy reports and they have been unable to get an inquest scheduled."
So, in my mind, the questions to ask are:
  • Why didn't the Vancouver Police tell the Bagnell family that Tasers were involved in Bob's death? Although the VPD did notify the family of Bob's death two days afterwards, the cause given was 'cocaine overdose'. Why did his mother and sister have to learn about the Taser connection through the media 30 days after his death? (Read more...)
  • One of the Taser guns used by VPD ERT members in the incident put out over twice as much electricity as it was supposed to. The other Taser gun tested put out of eighty five times it's specified energy! Are there any safety standards in place for Taser guns? (Read more...)
  • The jury at the coroner's inquest classified the death as an accident and was "unable to agree on any recommendations". Really?

So, who ends up being accountable for these issues? Who's going to stand up? Neither the Vancouver Police nor the Taser manufacturer seem to be taking responsibility, at least from what I've heard and seen in the media.

Riki bagnell and Daughter Patti Gillman in Vancouver, May 2007Being the Light...

Again, it was my great joy to meet with Riki and Patti, Bob Bagnell's family , for the second time, on May 24th.

We met for a dinner in Metrotown Mall on the day before they flew home back east. We talked about the inquest of course, which had taken a long eight months to finally resume.

They again praised the tireless efforts made by their lawyer, Cameron Ward, and we griped about the reluctance of corporate minds to stand up and admit to mistakes.

Although we agreed that the media seems to have a one-week memory span, Patti did have words of praise for Irwin Loy of 24 Hours (Vancouver), who reported on their inquest proceedings during each day.

If anything, this whole experience has been a lesson in overkill.

If what I've heard is correct:
  • Back in 2004, there were over a dozen members of the Vancouver Police Emergency Reponse Team on hand at the Columbia Hotel, all to extract one occupant (Bob).
  • Bob Bagnell was tasered by a Police Officer who outweighed him by approximately 100 pounds. How much force was needed? How much was enough?
  • Taser International and the VPD both had Lawyers present to protect their interests, versus the two women with their one lawyer.
All of that could easily be mistaken for overkill, I think.

From what I can see, in spite of everything, Riki and Patti have not given up on their concerns over Taser (mis)use, and continue to fight the fight, and light the light.

(Patti, keep on going! Write a book about this or something. I think you've still got a lot more that you want to say.)

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