RCMP Const. Bill Bentley is the first of four RCMP officers to be tried for perjury for alleged false testimony made to an inquiry examining the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in 2007.
Bentley 's trial begins today in Vancouver. The constable, along with three other RCMP officers, is charged with one count of perjury arising from testimony given at a public inquiry examining the circumstances of Dziekanski's death at Vancouver International Airport.
On Oct. 14, 2007, Dziekanski arrived at the airport on a flight from Poland. He was coming to Canada as a landed immigrant and was to join his mother who resides in British Columbia. Dziekanski spent approximately 10 hours in the arrivals area of the airport, appearing lost and confused. He spoke no English and could not ask anyone for help.
As the immigrant became more distraught he began to pick up furniture and throw it around the room. Police were called. As soon as Dziekanski began acting out, a man later identified as Paul Pritchard began filming him. The almost nine minute long video only ended after Dziekanski was Tasered and lying on the floor dying.
Pritchard later uploaded the video on YouTube. Canadians and others were outraged at what they saw. Many people could not understand why the officers Tasered the man who appeared to be calm and just standing there when they entered the arrivals area. It appeared to many that the four officers could have easily rushed him and taken him down rather than using a Taser.
In light of the reaction to Pritchard's video, an inquiry was commenced under British Columbia's Public Inquiries Act. On Feb. 15, 2008, Thomas R. Braidwood was appointed as commissioner. The inquiry, known as the Braidwood Inquiry, was divided into two parts; the first part examined the use of conducted energy weapons by law enforcement officers while the second stage examined the circumstances surrounding Dziekanski's death.
During the course of the inquiry, all four RCMP officers involved testified Dziekanski had a stapler in his hand, was approaching them in a threatening manner, and that the weapon was used because they feared for their safety. This was contrary to what was captured on video.
In May 2011, a special prosecutor recommended Bentley, Const. Kwesi Millington, Const. Gerry Rundell and Cpl. Benjamin Robinson each be charged with perjury.
Trials for the other officers are scheduled to be held in November 2013 and February 2014. All four men have pleaded not guilty.