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"It's premature to draw any conclusion that the Taser contributed to this man's death."
- Tony Burbridge, Halifax's deputy police chief
Halifax Police Reluctant to Link 45-Year-Old Man's Death to Weapon
November 22, 2007
A man has died in a Dartmouth jail about 30 hours after he was jolted by a Taser, prompting Nova Scotia's justice minister to order a review of police use of the weapon.
But Halifax Regional Police said Thursday that it's too early to speculate about whether the Taser hit killed the man.
"It's premature to draw any conclusion that the Taser contributed to this man's death," Tony Burbridge, Halifax's deputy police chief, told reporters.
The 45-year-old man died Thursday morning at the Burnside correctional facility, about 30 hours after officers used a stun gun to subdue him. Police haven't released his name, but Joanna Hyde identified him as her brother, Howard Hyde.
Burbridge said the man was being booked on an assault charge early Wednesday. When he jumped over a counter and tried to flee, a struggle ensued, and the officers used a Taser on him.
"From what I've seen on the tape, it was violent," the deputy chief said.
Burbridge said even after being jolted, the man continued to struggle and tried to run out a back door. The officers eventually brought him under control, but soon the man needed medical attention.
The officers gave the man first aid and paramedics took him to hospital. Burbridge said he was checked out, cleared medically, and returned to police custody.
Later Wednesday afternoon, the man was taken to court and remanded to the jail.
Burbridge said he was not sure whether the Taser went off more than once, but he was "absolutely" confident the officers did everything in their power to subdue the man before using the stun weapon.
He gave few details about the man, whom he described as probably heavier and taller than the officers, other than to say he had also been jolted by a Taser in 2005.
According to his sister and his widow, Karen Ellet, Hyde had psychiatric problems.
Ellet said she told police Hyde was off his medication when he was being arrested.
"He was starting to get aggressive. He was panting," she said.
Police are waiting for the province's chief medical examiner to determine exactly why the man died.
RCMP are also investigating.
No curb on Taser use contemplated
Burbridge said the police force will continue to use Tasers despite the death.
Nova Scotia Justice Minister Cecil Clarke is not banning the weapons, though he has ordered an immediate review of how police use them.
"We also have to be considerate of those who put their lives on the line as peace officers and police and correctional workers, and we're going to have a balanced approach," Clarke told reporters.
NDP justice critic Bill Estabrooks said an independent look at the overall use of Tasers in Nova Scotia is needed. However, neither Estabrooks nor Michel Samson, the Liberals' justice critic, is calling for a moratorium on Taser use.
Ellet questioned how police handle people with mental illnesses.
"I really feel he should've had more medical help to get him on his medications to get him stable enough to get him to go to court," she said.
Hyde is the latest person to die in Canada after being stunned by a Taser.
Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after being shocked by a stun gun at the Vancouver airport five weeks ago, prompting the federal government to order a review of the RCMP's Taser policy.
That review will not include other police forces.
In Montreal, Quilem Registre died in mid-October after being shocked by a Taser at a police station where he had been brought for questioning. He had been stopped as a result of a traffic violation, and officers said he appeared to be intoxicated.
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