Four Canadian Police Killed in Pot Raid

Four Canadian Police Killed in Pot Raid
Alberta RCMP Assistant Commissioner, Bill Sweeney, speaks to reporters about the death of four RCMP officers during a tactical operation, near Mayerthorpe Alta, on Thursday March 3, 2005. JOHN ULAN
March 04, 2005 12:13 AM EST

ROCHFORT BRIDGE, Alberta - Four officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were shot dead Thursday while investigating an illegal marijuana farm, the worst case of police killings in Canada in 120 years.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Wayne Oakes said the four officers were at a Quonset hut on a farm near the village of Rochfort Bridge in northwestern Alberta when they were shot by a suspect, who was also found in the shed. A government source told The Canadian Press news agency that the suspect later killed himself after shooting the officers.

"It's my sad duty to inform you that four members of the RCMP were killed today in the line of duty - four brave, young members," said Bill Sweeney, commanding officer of the RCMP in the western province of Alberta.

"The loss of four police officers is unprecedented in recent history," Sweeney said. "I'm told you have to go back to about 1885 in the RCMP history during the Northwest Rebellion to have a loss of this magnitude."

Sweeney said he couldn't give details on the shootings until all the facts were gathered.

Prime Minister Paul Martin called it an act of "brutality" and offered his condolences to the families of the slain officers.

Sgt. Rick Oncescu of the Calgary RCMP said two SWAT teams were called into the area and Mounties from surrounding jurisdictions also responded when the four officers didn't respond to radio calls.

Maj. Scott Lundy, a spokesman for Edmonton Garrison, said the military received a request just after 12:30 p.m. from the RCMP for assistance. He said two armored personnel carriers, an ambulance and about 20 military personnel were dispatched from the military base.

Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan said she would consider tougher penalties for growers in a proposed marijuana decriminalization bill. Parliament is preparing to debate a resolution that asserts that legalizing pot would weaken the activities of drug dealers and organized crime.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Truly a trajedy and needless waste. The military and RCMP in Alberta have a long history of co-operation. Sadly we weren't able to prevent the loss of these four officers.

Pray for the families left behind, including the father of the gunman. The gunman's father, 80 years old, described his son as "a wicked devil" that turned rotten long ago.

Nothing here but trajedy and sorrow.
Simply tragic.. have relatives who are in the RCMP and my brother is a cop.. all are suffering...' farmer ' in question was recently released ex-con.. farm had major grow-op and was protected by large dogs.. [ Rott-Shepard cross and a Wolf-Akida cross ]..the ' perp ' was using a high powered sniper rifle..

don't know all the details, but, cops were regular patrol officers with standard ' vests ' and glock/sigsaur sidearm and shotguns.. no tactical back-up or anything, cause of isolation in rural areas.. guess they thought the take-down wouldn't be severe..

I'm sure there will be the usual ' full investigation ' lessons-learned, screams from right and left about ' value' of such exercises and the ' rationale' of the laws that allow people to ' possess' for personal use but not buy and sell [ WTF? ]..
screams to legalize will follow, wouldn't happen if left alone, etc..government control and taxation benefits, etc.. big tobacco companies looking to step in and ' recover' lost ciggie revenues through ' diversification' and such..

in the meantime we mourn the loss of 4 in the line of duty..condolences to the wives and kids [ there are ALWAYS wives and kids ] and brace for all the mealy-mouthed politicians to get the front row seats at the hyped and overblown funeral to follow..hope to hell the cops can run the show for their own and give these men the final farewell they deserve without it becoming the expected media circus for once...

failures and loopholes in the system always do in the good cops in their tasks..something serving in the military lets you understand fully...

for now, I'm lowering my flag to half-mast and giving a silent toast to the fallen...

its a real shame.. and shame on those who will exploit this...


War Hero
Well said Rocketeer.

Condolences to the families amd collegues.
A sad day!

Condolences to all.
A terrible incident.

My condolences to the bereaved.
Reports are indicating that the gunman, a Mr. Roszko, ambushed the officers. Apparently the RCMP had taken the farm earlier in the day and had dismantled the grow-op. Two officers were tasked to guard the farm overnight and they would be relieved by two other officers during the crse of the night/early morning.

Indications are that Mr. Roszko ambushed from the impromptu CP in one of the Quonset huts on the farm. Presumably the officers were having coffee/shooting the breeze and were killed without warning and had no opportunity to defend themselves. When the relief officers showed up a bit later to find out why radio contact had been lost, they were immediately gunned down and again had no opportunity to defend themselves. At some point the killer was either wounded by return fire from units that responded later or killed himself. However, there remains at least one officer in an Edmonton hospital. No word on how severe his injuries are, but hopefully the injuries are not sever and he will recover fully.
Canadians Stunned Over Killing of Mounties

Four Alberta RCMP officers were shot and killed during an investigation into a marijuana grow operation Thursday on a farm near the village of Rochfort Bridge in northwestern Alberta. JEFF MCINTOSH
March 04, 2005 5:51 PM EST

TORONTO - A bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" and flags flew at half-staff Friday as Canadians grappled with the deadliest attack on police officers in 120 years, after four Mounties were slain during a raid on a marijuana farm in a rural western hamlet.

The slayings stunned a nation that prides itself on far fewer acts of gun violence than its neighbor to the south.

"Canadians are shocked by this brutality and join me in condemning the violent acts that brought about these deaths," Prime Minister Paul Martin said. He has called for a moment of silence before opening his Liberal Party's annual conference later Friday.

The four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers had been investigating a farm in Mayerthorpe, a small hamlet of some 1,300 people in western Alberta province.

Spokesman Cpl. Wayne Oakes said the four Mounties and the suspected gunman were found in a Quonset hut on the farm late Thursday. A government source told The Canadian Press the suspect killed himself after shooting the officers.

"The loss of four police officers is unprecedented in recent history," said Bill Sweeney, commanding officer of the Mounties in Alberta. "I'm told you have to go back to about 1885 ... during the Northwest Rebellion to have a loss of this magnitude."

The Northwest Rebellion was an unsuccessful attempt by indigenous rebels to establish an independent nation in the northwestern frontier.

The Mounties, with their bright red tunics and broad-brimmed Stetsons, are as much a national symbol as a police force. Legend has it that the small Northwest Mounted Police, formed in 1873 to bring order to the Canadian west, wore their scarlet tunics so natives could readily distinguish them from the blue-coated U.S. cavalry.

The suspect was identified by police as 46-year-old James Roszko. Authorities said he had a long criminal record, including the use of illegal firearms and sexual assault.

Oakes said the Mounties were investigating reports of stolen property and marijuana on Roszko's property.

Sgt. Rick Oncescu said two SWAT teams were called into the area and Mounties from surrounding jurisdictions also responded when the four officers did not respond to radio calls Thursday afternoon.

A woman played "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes as children laid flowers Friday at the flagpole in front of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters in Mayerthorpe.

Tracy Eisert, who used to serve the slain Mounties at the local Burger Baron, wept as she carried flowers. "I served these gentlemen where I work and I wanted to say thank you," she said.

"This is something that happens in Hollywood, but it never happens here," Albert Schalm, the town's mayor, told CBC TV. "I think it will change the community. It will just make everybody more aware that there are drug problems, even out here in rural Canada."

There were 152 homicides by firearms in Canada in 2002, according to federal statistics, compared with 11,829 homicides by guns in the United States for that same year.

A 1995 federal firearms law in Canada requires every firearm in the country be registered and each gun owner licensed.

But Canada is grappling with an increase in organized crime behind the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry.

"It is an unprecedented and unspeakable loss," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli said in a statement. "We know that these are the most serious challenges, made complicated by the involvement of organized crime, the availability of weapons and the risks posed by individuals who choose the path of violence and destruction over peace and good."

The officers were armed only with handguns. Some have asked why they did not have better backup and how all four could have been killed by a single gunman.

Police identified the four Mounties as Peter Christopher Schiemann, Anthony Fitzgerald Orion Gordon, Lionide Nicholas Johnston and Brock Warren Myrol.

Myrol, 29, had been on the job for only two weeks.

"He loved the RCMP and all it stood for," his family said in a statement. "Our country is hurting. We have lost four dedicated citizens who were willing to do something about it."
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

RCMP probe killings: Amid grief, questions arise for police and politicians

Michael Friscolanti
National Post, with files from CanWest News Service

Saturday, March 05, 2005

CREDIT: Grant Black, CanWest News Service

MAYERTHORPE, Alta. - As family, friends and fellow police officers mourned yesterday, many people in the Alberta communities where four slain RCMP officers lived wondered aloud whether their deaths could have been prevented.

The questions surrounding the murders of Constables Peter Christopher Schiemann, Anthony Fitzgerald Orion Gordon, Lionide Nicholas Johnston and Brock Warren Myrol began to pile up yesterday, along with the flowers and cards delivered by mourners.

And while the shock of Canada's worst cop-killing spree in more than a century spread through this Alberta town and across the country, answers were being sought by investigators combing the crime scene and political leaders already debating possible laws to deal with marijuana grow operations like the one found on the property of James Roszko.

Investigators are still not even sure whether the four officers saw Roszko before he opened fire on them, or how the gunman -- who, according to his brother, was a psychopath aching for the chance to use his automatic weapons -- managed to ambush the officers as they stood guard on his property.

"I know that that is one of the issues that the investigative team, right from the very beginning, has a strong interest in determining: How did the subject get back onto the property?" said Corporal Wayne Oakes, speaking to reporters gathered outside the RCMP detachment in Mayerthorpe, where three of the four dead officers were stationed.

Police here could provide few new details about the final moments leading up to their deaths.

Amid the lingering questions, Cpl. Oakes said many of the answers people are looking for remain unclear. He could not say, for example, how much marijuana officers discovered at the site, or what weapons were recovered.

What is known about the shootings is the human toll the burst of inexplicable violence has taken in two northern Alberta towns.

The four slain officers were fathers, musicians and friends.

One of the dead was valedictorian of his RCMP graduating class just a month ago.

Another was a young father looking forward to the birth of his second child.

One had a twin brother who was also a member of the force.

The fourth and youngest was the son of a Lutheran minister and a school teacher.

Mayerthorpe officers first visited James Roszko's property on Tuesday to assist a sheriff's deputy, who was repossessing a truck from the property.

Roszko was already familiar to the RCMP, as its officers had repeatedly responded to calls he was threatening neighbours and firing warning shots at people who came too close to his property.

During the visit on Tuesday, the officers noticed what appeared to be a marijuana grow-operation inside Roszko's Quonset hut, a half-moon-shaped aluminum storage building at the centre of his farm.

When they returned the next day with a search warrant, the officers stumbled upon stolen auto parts, forcing the search to be called off until a separate warrant could be obtained.

In the meantime, two officers were left to guard the property overnight -- a standard procedure. On Thursday morning, two other constables arrived.

All four were inside the Quonset when gunfire erupted.

"It should not have happened .... If the justice system worked better, he should have been locked behind bars a long time ago," said lifelong Mayerthorpe resident Charlotte Arthur, referring to Roszko's notorious reputation around town.

Cpl. Oakes was forced numerous times yesterday to defend the RCMP against suggestions that more could have been done to prevent the tragedy -- and that the Mounties underestimated the target of their search.

The officers were following proper protocol, he said, and would have taken additional precautions had the situation warranted.

"I think it's a lot of armchair quarterbacking, for one thing," he said of the criticisms levelled at the police. "And that's a natural thing. When you have a tragedy, people will always ask: 'Was the right thing done? Could have more been done?'

"There was no indication that [Roszko] was around," said Cpl. Oakes, visibly frustrated by the repeated questions from the press. "They had no idea; they couldn't see him. They didn't know where he was. I don't know how else to answer that."

Only time will tell, he said, whether Roszko was hiding somewhere inside the Quonset, waiting to attack.

At Roszko's farm yesterday, forensic investigators continued to comb for clues and will likely be there for at least another two days.

Outside the RCMP detachment in Mayerthorpe tearful residents of this town of 1,500 placed wreaths and flowers near the front door.

But despite the tragedy, and the subsequent invasion of camera crews and journalists, daily life did continue here. The car wash next door to the police station was almost as crowded, as people basked in one of the warmest days of the winter.

Life went on, but it will never be the same for the killer's brother.

"Why in the hell would they ever send those cops down there like that?" said George Roszko of Whitecourt, who is four years older than his estranged sibling. "What in the hell were they thinking, that they were going on a picnic? I mean, everybody knew him.

"The tragedy is that every community has some kind of a violent, psychopathic criminal mind living there, but when you know that, what are you doing, sending the boys out on a picnic?"


Number of grow-ops police estimate are in Canada: more than 50,000

Tonnes of marijuana estimated to be produced a year in Canada: 800

Dollar value of plants seized by Barrie police from the biggest grow-op in Canada's history: $30-million

Maximum number of years someone will spend in jail for growing marijuana: 7

The jail sentence given a Quebec marijuana courier who shot and wounded a municipal constable while trying to protect his stash: 9 years

The jail sentence given a Surrey man for shooting and wounding a 70-year-old pot grower and then robbing his plants: 5 years less 13 months for time served

Number of guns Ontario police seized from grow-ops in the first half of 2003: 30

Number of children who may have been living in Ontario grow-op dwellings from 2000 to 2003: 10,000

Number of children found in a single home with a pot lab in the basement in Durham region: 11

Percentage of grow-ops in York, Peel and Waterloo regions located within 500 metres of a primary or secondary school in 2002: 17

Percentage of the marijuana industry in B.C. that was controlled by outlaw motorcycle gangs and Vietnamese-based crime groups in 2001: 85

Number of grow-ops in Ontario: 15,000

Estimated percentage increase of Ontario grow-ops from 2000 to 2002: 250

Estimated retail value of marijuana plants produced in Ontario grow-ops from 2000 to 2003: $12.4-billion

Annual worth of an average grow-op with about 400 plants being harvested every three months: $1.6-million

Average start-up costs including equipment: $30,000 to $40,000

Conservative estimate of street value per plant: $1,000 ($10,000 per kilogram)

Chances that a fire will spread through a grow-op home as compared to a typical house: 40 times greater

Number of fires a year the Vancouver Fire Department blames on grow-ops: 20

Number of grow-ops that Markham Hydro disconnected electrical service to in 2002: 191

Amount those grow-ops stole in electricity: $1.3-million

Number of grow-ops in houses, apartments and industrial units that Toronto Police Service dismantled last year: 320

Percentage increase of grow-op busts from 2003 to 2004: 128

Number of Toronto operations in 2004 that had security or protection such as alarm systems and barricaded doors: 22

Sources: Toronto Police Service, Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, Green Tide Report, RCMP's Marijuana Cultivation in Canada: Evolution and Current Trends 2002, CanWest News Service
© National Post 2005

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