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Teen described on day he died

Inquest hears cops used Taser

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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

A lawyer for Taser International focused Monday on inquest witnesses' perceptions of a Winnipeg teen just before a police officer shocked him with one of the weapons.

The teen later died.

The long-awaited judicial inquest into the death of Michael Langan got underway in provincial court.

Police used a Taser to subdue Langan, 17, in a William Avenue back lane on the afternoon of July 22, 2008. He lost consciousness and could not be revived. The provincial medical examiner's office deemed his death accidental.

An autopsy, however, found the cause of Langan's death was cardiac arrhythmia due to being shocked by a police officer's Taser.

Tasers, although widely used by police as a "less lethal" use-of-force option, remain controversial.

Amnesty International says more than 500 people have died in the United States since 2001 after being stunned with the devices while in jail or during an arrest.

Taser, citing a National Institute of Justice study, says there's no conclusive medical evidence indicating a high risk of serious injury or death from the direct effects of CEDs (conducted-energy weapons). Tasers, used appropriately, save lives in situations where the use of deadly force might be the alternative, the company says.

Manitoba medical examiners found Langan had a rare heart condition of abnormal heart cells, which can sometimes induce arrhythmia.

Taser International lawyer David Neave's questioning of the inquest's first two witnesses delved into their observations of Langan's mannerisms and "agitated state" in the minutes before the fatal encounter with police.

The witnesses are employees of MWG Apparel on Notre Dame Avenue. It was there Langan broke into Hartley Klapman's car and took a binoculars case, court heard.

Klapman and colleague Henry Connon dealt with Langan in the parking lot after learning of the theft.

They described him as behaving erratically and agitated, as if he were on some kind of drug, but not acting aggressively.

Langan offered to give the case back, Klapman told Judge Tim Killeen.

"He was gesturing to fight: 'Do you want to fight me, or do you want to take this (case) and call it a day?' " Klapman recalled. He took the case back and Langan left the lot.

Connon followed Langan on foot, prompting Klapman to go after Connon in his car because he was concerned for his safety.

They drove around trying to find Langan and caught up with him in a Bannatyne Avenue back lane. Klapman said he tried to use his car to confine Langan in the lane.

It was here he said Langan flashed a knife, which he held near his head.

Langan escaped, but the men spotted him on William Avenue near Arlington Street.

He spotted them and darted between two houses near the National Microbiology Laboratory on Arlington.

At that moment, the men flagged down a police cruiser.

Connon gave the uniformed officers a quick description of what happened and they went to look for Langan.

Connon kept on with the chase and saw police stopped in the lane.

The officer in the passenger seat was crouched behind his open door and aimed a Taser through the open window, Connon said.

" 'Drop the weapon,' " Connon said police ordered Langan.

" 'Drop your... knife,' " the officer then said. A brief pause, "then pop," Connon testified.

Connon couldn't see Langan from his vantage point, only the shoes of the suspect police Tasered, which he said were about three feet from the police car.

One officer radioed for assistance, Connon said. Langan was pronounced dead at Health Sciences Centre at 4:34 p.m.

His father, Brian Minchin, burst into sobs in court after hearing details of the fatal encounter. His mother, Sharon Shymko, sat in another seat listening intently to the evidence.

Inquest Crown counsel Robert Gosman tabled a massive medical examiner's office file as part of its case.

Its contents were not discussed Monday but likely will be in June during the inquest's second phase.

A police officer involved in subduing Langan is to testify today.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 8, 2014 B1

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