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Teen ordered to drop knife after he was Tasered, witness says

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Police warned a city teen to drop a knife only after they shocked him with a Taser and he fell backwards to the ground, a witness at a fatality inquest testified Tuesday.

As well, a young man two officers encountered in a back lane hadn't seemed to make any sudden moves prior to an officer using his Taser, Jordan Wolfman told court.

Wolfman was testifying at the inquest into the July 22, 2008 death of Michael Langan, 17.

Langan became unresponsive and died after being Tasered by a police officer in a William Avenue back lane.

The teen was suspected of having broken into a car at a business not far away just prior to the encounter with police.

Wolfman was working as a groundskeeper at the National Microbiology Laboratory on Arlington Street and witnessed the event from about 75 or more feet away through a fence.

He told Judge Tim Killeen he saw a young man rushing frantically through the lane, appearing to be out of control of his body movements and having a hard time keeping his balance.

Wolfman testified he then heard the squeal of tires and saw a police car approach Langan very quickly and stop.

Both officers got out, he said. The driver moved quickly to the front of the vehicle, while the other officer got out, held up both his arms and extended them outwards at shoulder height, said Wolfman.

He said he didn't hear any verbal exchange between the officers and the man prior to hearing the "zzztt" sound of what he believed to be a Taser.

The young man they were dealing with fell backwards.

Then, Wolfman said, he heard police commanding the man to drop a knife.

It took between five and seven seconds after police pulled up in the lane for these events to unfold, Wolfman said.

"I don't think there was any significant time elapsed," he told Winnipeg Police Service lawyer Kim Carswell.

The testimony conflicts with other civilian testimony heard Monday which indicated police gave Langan two warnings to drop a weapon prior to the Taser being used.

As well, other witnesses have said the driver moved to the rear of the police car, not around the front towards Langan after exiting the marked cruiser car.

Wolfman conceded he may have had the rapid-fire, "slightly frightening" sequence of events out of order, but confirmed several times he didn't hear police say anything to Langan until after he was on the ground.

"I could hear it clearly," he told Nolan Boucher, the lawyer representing Langan's father, Brian Minchin. "That much I remember quite clearly."

And while he testified he didn't see Langan do anything, he told police a day after the event the young man he saw had his hands "balled into fists" and was holding them up when officers encountered him.

"I find it hard to say for sure that he didn't (make gestures)," said Wolfman.

One of the two officers involved is set to testify this afternoon.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

 

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