Coroner Stephen Fonseca today adjourned the coroner’s inquest into the death of Robert Bagnell and ordered a ban on publication or distribution of a letter dated September 14, 2005 from Victoria Chief Constable Paul Battershill to B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld and Vancouver Chief Constable Jamie Graham.

Yesterday, the coroner’s jury heard that the two Tasers used on Bagnell were tested by electrical lab Intertek ETL Semko and that one of them generated 30.42 joules/pulse of energy in conditions designed to simulate contact with human skin. This is 84.5 times greater than the manufacturer’s specification of 0.36 joules/pulse. The author of the report was scheduled to testify today.

Robert Bagnell died June 23, 2004. On June 25, 2004, VPD Detective Faora advised his mother that he died of a drug overdose. On July 23, 2004, after the body had been cremated and the ashes delivered to the family, the VPD issued a media release advising the public that the death had occurred in police custody and that Bagnell had been “Tasered” before he died. On August 16, 2004, VPD Deputy Chief LePard issued a follow-up media release stating that the Taser was used to rescue Bagnell from a fire in the building.

Tasers are a controversial prohibited weapon that “overwhelm the central nervous system” with 50,000 volts of electricity, according to the manufacturer, Taser International Inc. They have been linked to the deaths of at least 215 people in Canada and the U.S. Tasers were introduced to Canada by the Victoria Police Department’s Darren Laur, who was the recipient of cash payments and stock options from Taser International.

No comprehensive independent Canadian safety testing has ever been done on these high-voltage electrical devices. Jason Doan of Calgary, who died on August 30, 2006, was at least the 14th Canadian to die after being shocked by a police Taser.


Coroners’ inquests:

The Coroners Service of British Columbia is part of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the ministry responsible for policing within the province. The Chief Coroner is Terry Smith, formerly of the RCMP. According to the Coroners Service’s website; “An inquest is a formal court proceeding that allows for the public presentation of all evidence relating to a death. Inquests may be held to focus community attention on a death and to satisfy the community that the death of one of its members is not overlooked, concealed or ignored. An inquest is mandatory when a death occurs in police custody.”