Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tasered suspect didn't attempt to flee, inquest told

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Mike Langan's mother, Sharon Shymko (right) and Mavis Sanders and  speak to the media after the inquest into Langan's death began Monday.

JAMES TURNER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Mike Langan's mother, Sharon Shymko (right) and Mavis Sanders and speak to the media after the inquest into Langan's death began Monday. Photo Store

He had a number of escape routes to flee from Winnipeg police, but fatefully, Michael Langan chose not to take them.

Why he didn't is one of the central mysteries emerging from an inquest into the 17-year-old's death.

"He had every opportunity in the world to run," Const. Ryan Naismith testified Wednesday. "He stopped for us."

Naismith was the officer who fired his Taser at a knife-holding Langan on the afternoon of July 22, 2008.

The young stranger -- standing just metres from Naismith who sat in the passenger side of a police car -- refused repeated demands to drop the weapon, Naismith said.

Langan, shirtless, fell backwards and collapsed on the concrete driveway behind 865 William Ave.

He could not be revived and was pronounced dead in hospital soon after.

His death was an accident, the medical examiner's office found. An autopsy, however, ruled the cause of Langan's death was cardiac arrhythmia due to being shocked by the Taser.

The actions of Naismith and his partner, Const. Michael Temple, are being closely scrutinized at the inquest.

Naismith described how he and Temple were flagged down by passersby and were told Langan may have broken into a car minutes earlier at a Notre Dame Avenue business.

They were given no information Langan was armed with any weapon or was acting in an erratic fashion, both have said.

If they had been aware, both officers have said, the "red flag" that development raised would have likely prompted a different approach: a tactic to keep a "reactive gap" between the suspect and officers to allow them to respond to his actions.

Spotting him in the William Avenue laneway bordering the federal virology lab, Naismith testified he had his Taser unholstered already.

"My intent was to use it as coercion," said Naismith. He was hoping to show it to the suspect and gain his co-operation, if necessary.

Naismith said Langan whipped off the blue jacket he was wearing as they neared him.

When the police car stopped behind 865 William, Langan turned on his heel to face it. He stood between a metre and 1.5 metres away, Naismith said.

"If he was going to run, that would have been a great time (to do it)," said Naismith. "Clearly he wasn't going to run."

Langan had a "diabolical smile" on his face, Naismith recalled.

"I don't know if I'd call it evil, but there was no joking in his face. It was something I hadn't come across as a police officer," he said.

Langan stood still as a statue with his arms outstretched to the side, said Naismith. The knife was clutched in his right hand.

Naismith said he ordered Langan to drop it four or five times before he fired the Taser and connected with him.

"At that point, I felt in danger of grievous bodily harm or death," Naismith said. "I had an open window with this male outside the window."

The inquest resumes in June, when the theme of the hearings turns to expert medical evidence and what role the Taser played in Langan's death.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2014 B1

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