Twelve years after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was Tasered and died at Vancouver International Airport, one of the four Mounties on scene has settled a lawsuit against the RCMP.
Bill Bentley had been a Mountie for barely more than a year when he was dispatched to the Vancouver international airport terminal on Oct. 14, 2007, where reports had come in of a distraught man who smashed a small folding table against a glass wall and broke a computer in frustration.
Within minutes of the Mounties arriving on scene, the man –– 40-year-old Dziekanski –– was dead, having been Tasered, subdued, and handcuffed. The fallout was swift for the national police force and continues to date.
Bentley launched a civil suit against the force in 2016, alleging the Mounties made him a “scapegoat” for public criticism. The force denied that in its official response. On May 31, 2019, it settled.
Bentley, who still works for the RCMP, waited a few days before telling the other three who were at the airport with him about the settlement; he needed a moment.
“I still feel numb to everything,” Bentley told Global News.
“It will take a while before it really hits me and I adjust to the new normal.”
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A spokesperson for the RCMP confirmed the settlement, saying its terms are “confidential.”
Monty Robinson, one of the other Mounties on the scene when Dziekanski died, told Global News it was “hush money.” Robinson, who no longer works for the RCMP, urged people to read Blamed and Broken, a book from journalist Curt Petrovich that reveals “the tragic impact of those fleeting seconds on the people involved –– Dziekanski’s mother and the four Mounties.”
“Those fleeting seconds” is a reference to a passerby’s viral video of Dziekanski’s death.
In the early days after Dziekanski’s death, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre told the public that there were only three Mounties on scene, that they weren’t able to use pepper spray to subdue him because there were too many people in the vicinity, and that Dziekanski had been Tasered just twice.
The reality, per the video, was that there were four Mounties, there weren’t many people around and the Mounties had used the Taser five times. In a separate lawsuit, Lemaitre’s widow filed a lawsuit against the force saying he, too, had been made a “scapegoat” in the aftermath — she remembers a phone call from a senior Mountie in which she says that he told her, “What was done to Pierre was done for the good of the Force.”
It was Lemaitre who had passed the initial incorrect information on to the public. And although “anxious to set the public record straight” once he learned the truth, his wife’s statement of claim says he was forbidden by his superiors to do so. Lemaitre died by suicide in 2013. The RCMP settled his widow’s lawsuit in 2018.
A public inquiry declared the Mounties unjustified in their use of the Taser in 2010, and subsequently Bentley, Mounties Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, Gerry Rundel and Kwesi Millington, were charged with perjury for statements they made during the inquiry.
Bentley and Rundel were acquitted, while Millington and Robinson were convicted. Millington was sentenced to 30 months in jail, while Robinson was given a two-year sentence with one year of probation and 240 hours of community service.
While the force settled the lawsuit from Lemaitre’s widow last year, Bentley’s settlement is the first of the four lawsuits filed by the Mounties who were present during Dziekanski’s death.
— with files from The Canadian Press