Perspective: The Mayerthorpe Tragedy

On March 3, 2005 on the farm of James Roszko, four Officers of the RCMP, Anthony Gordon, Lionide "Leo" Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann were murdered while serving a search warrant for stolen property and a marijuana grow operation. James Roszko then turned the gun on himself. Shawn Hennessey and Dennis Cheeseman later plead guilty to manslaughter for assisting James Roszko with the murders of these Officers.

This is the account of the Mayerthorpe tragedy on Wikipedia:

Initial contact with Roszko

On the afternoon of March 2, 2005, two civil bailiffs went to the farm owned by James Roszko to repossess a truck which Roszko had purchased, but on which he had not made any payments. They arrived around 3:00 pm. There was a metal gate blocking the road into the farmyard. When Roszko saw the baillifs, he released two large aggressive Rottweilers. The bailiffs decided they should call the RCMP. The officer who responded to the phone call warned them not to go onto the property until the RCMP arrived. Roszko had a criminal record with violent and sexual offences, and was subject to a firearms possession prohibition. He was known to the members of the Meyerthorpe RCMP Detachment.[3]

Roszko swore at the bailiffs and drove off in a truck. The bailiffs thought it may have been the truck they were to seize, but were not sure.[4]

Shortly after Roszko drove off, three Mounties arrived, including Constable Peter Schiemann. The bailiffs had the legal authority to search the farm for the truck, since they were not sure if the truck Roszko was using was the truck that they had instructions to seize. Acting under that authority, the bailiffs broke open the gate. The Mounties confined the dogs in a shed. The group then went to the quonset in the farmyard. They found numerous vehicle parts, indicating a stolen vehicle chop shop, and a marijuanagrow-op. The Mounties realised that they would need a search warrant before proceeding any further. They left the quonset at approximately 4:15 pm and called in the truck as stolen, warning that other officers should be on the lookout for Roszko.[4]

Search of the property

The senior officer in the group, Corporal James Martin, left to obtain a warrant, leaving two officers to maintain control of the farm. Corporal Martin returned at 8:40 pm with the warrant. Given the expected magnitude of the search, the warrant was valid for twenty-four hours. The Mounties first conducted a security search of the dwelling and the quonset, to ensure that Roszko was not present.[5] While their search confirmed Roszko was not on the farm, the RCMP found a radio scanner tuned to the frequency of the Whitecourt RCMP detachment in Roszko's residence. They also found lists containing intelligence on the local detachments at Mayerthorpe, Whitecourt, Barrhead and Evansburg, including member’s names, car numbers and cell phone numbers. There was also a night vision scope and .308 and 9 mm caliber ammunition, which indicated Roszko was in breach of his firearms prohibition.[6]

[Shhhh! Digital note: The above paragraph is evidence that some members of the public actively engage in intricate counter-intelligence against law enforcement and those associated with it in order to protect criminal enterprise]

Having confirmed that Roszko was not present, the Mounties began the search of the quonset. The initial focus was on the search and seizure of the marijuana plants and equipment, conducted by a special "Green Team" from the RCMP "K" Division in Edmonton. According to documents obtained by the CBC's The Fifth Estate in a court case to have the search warrants made public, police seized seven growing marijuana plants, and 88 harvested plants from the residence, plus a further 192 growing marijuana plants along with growing equipment from the quonset. The marijuana search concluded around 3:00 am on March 3, 2005.[5]

All but two Mounties left at that point, with the expectation that an RCMP team which specialised in stolen vehicle searches would arrive in the morning. Constables Anthony Gordon and Leo Johnston remained on the scene until the morning, with no signs of any trouble. As a security measure during the night, the Mounties had parked several marked police vehicles prominently in the farmyard with their lights on. They also left the vehicle doors and man-door of the quonset wide open, with bright halogen lights on inside. The lights were also left on in the dwelling. The purpose was to make it clear that the Mounties were on the scene and investigating, and to deter unauthorised entry.[5]
Roszko returns

After he fled the farm, Roszko phoned Shawn Hennessey, who worked in Barrhead and who subsequently admitted that he was associated with Roszko in the grow-op.[7] Roszko wanted to hide his truck on Hennessey's property. Hennessey refused, but he contacted his brother-in-law, Dennis Cheeseman, for help in dealing with Roszko. Roszko went to Hennessey's farm. Hennessey and Cheeseman arrived there separately.[8]

Roszko was armed with a Beretta hand-gun, and asked for a Winchester rifle that he knew that Hennessey had been given by Hennessey's grandfather. Hennessey got the rifle, chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum, along with ammunition. He wiped it down. Cheeseman got a pillow case and some gloves. He put on the gloves, then put the rifle in the pillowcase and gave it to Roszko. It was clear to all there that Roszko was enraged at the police.[9] He said he was going to go back to his farm to burn down the quonset, with the evidence of the chop shop and grow op. He had decided to hide the truck at his aunt's home, and asked Hennessey and Cheeseman to follow him there, then drive him to his own farm. They agreed to do so.[9] His aunt's house was 38.5 km from Roszko's own farm.[10]

After parking his truck at his aunt's house, Roszko got into the car driven by Hennessey, who drove him back to the area of Roszko's farm. On the way, Roszko continued to rant about the RCMP, saying he would get even with them. Cheeseman later said Roszko's ranting was "devil talk".[11]

Roszko directed them to drive past the road leading to his own farm and go on to the next one. They could see the lights of the police cars at Roszko's farm. Sometime between 1:00 am and 3:00 am on March 3, 2005, Hennessey and Cheeseman dropped Roszko off. He pulled heavy socks over his boots, presumably to hide his tracks in the snow. He grabbed the Hennessey rifle and set off towards his farm and the police.[11]

As they were driving away, Cheeseman suggested to Hennessey that they call police. Hennessey disagreed, and no call was made.[12]
The shooting

On the morning of March 3, 2005, Constables Anthony Gordon and Leo Johnston were still providing scene security, pending the arrival of the RCMP Auto Theft investigators. In a telephone report at around 9:00 am, Constable Johnson advised Corporal Martin that the night had been uneventful. Corporal Martin decided to send Constable Myrol to the scene to assist with the search by the Auto Theft investigators. Constable Schiemann was not assigned to work at the scene, but agreed to drop off Constable Myrol. They also agreed that they would pick up some meat and a veterinary sedative to feed and calm down the dogs, who had not been fed since they had been put in the shed the day before. The two drove to the Roszko farm, arriving sometime after 9:30 am.[13]

Just before 10:00 am, Constable Hoogestraat and Constable Vigor of the RCMP Auto Theft investigation unit arrived. They saw the four Mayerthorpe Mounties at the shed, presumably feeding the meat and sedatives to the Rottweilers. As Hoogestraat and Vigor prepared for the search, the four Mayerthorpe Mounties went towards the quonset. The doors to the quonset were still open, as they had been all night.[13]

Unknown to the Mounties, Roszko was inside the quonset. The subsequent Fatalities Inquiry could not determine when he had returned, but the judge conducting the inquiry concluded that it was unlikely Roszko had entered the quonset much before daylight. He was well-dressed to spend the night outdoors. He had probably approached the quonset hiding under a sheet which the Mounties later found in the quonset, along with a pillowcase and workgloves. The sheet would have masked him against the snow, and the socks over his boots would have muffled his steps.[14]

The four Mayerthorpe Mounties entered the quonset. Outside the quonset, Constables Hoogestraat and Vigor heard two loud bangs, followed by several other sounds which they recognized as gunfire. They also heard screaming from within the quonset. Constable Hoogestraat ran to the radio to report "officers down". Constable Vigor started to the entrance of the quonset, when Roszko came out. He had a hunting rifle slung on his back, a pistol in his belt and a Heckler & Koch .308 semi-automatic rifle in his hands. He was just casually walking out, then saw Constable Vigor and stopped, apparently surprised that there were more Mounties outside. He quickly recovered and fired two shots at Constable Vigor, who took shelter behind a police vehicle and returned fire with two shots from his sidearm. Both of his shots hit Roszko, who staggered back into the quonset.[13]

Constable Hoogestraat was unable to make radio contact with the officers in the shed. The RCMP Emergency Response Team was called by 10:13 am and arrived by 11:52 am from Edmonton, which is normally an hour away from Mayerthorpe.[13] An armoured vehicle from the Canadian Forces Edmonton Garrison was called in, but subsequently stood down as not needed.[15] The Emergency Response Team sent in a Remote Mobile Investigator, a robot with a video camera attached, and determined that all four officers and Roszko were all dead.[13].

The Fatalities Inquiry later determined that Roszko killed all four officers, who all died almost instantly. Only Constable Johnson was able to return fire with one shot.[14] Roszko then was wounded in the hand and in the thigh by the shots fired by Constable Vigor outside the quonset. The shot to his thigh fractured his femur. After he went back into the quonset, he turned his weapon on himself.[13]

That concludes the account of the Mayerthorpe tragedy on Wikipedia.

The four Officers in this tragedy were taken from their families by a killer, who had obviously been keeping a purposeful eye on the Mounties for some time through scanners and careful tracking. I know what I said yesterday in my now deleted post about being "disconnected" from family but I'd like to make one thing clear and that is that I don't side with anyone who would number themselves amongst the killers of these Officers or any Officers for that matter and I hold my ground on that without exception. 

I've personally seen the kind of effort that goes into tracking authorities or people deemed to be on the side of authority as used by people within my community of Regent Park and it is quite sickening, especially when examined against the context of this tragedy. Keep in mind that James Roszko was one person. Imagine when a group of similarly minded people collaborate to protect their criminal enterprise by similar means?

I suppose that aspect is only shadowed by people who would work from within the system and exploit it to protect their own criminal enterprise or those of their friends and peers. Either using system resources to track individuals or to share information with those protecting other criminal enterprises and to misuse the system to thwart people who are deemed to be enemies of these criminal enterprises. It is activities like those on both sides of the fence that polarize people, sometimes to the level of atrocity though it seems that James Roszko had certainly targeted the Mounties and was keeping an eye on them in order to protect his own illicit activities.

In examining this case, I'd say that there is no contest when it comes to the fact that these Officers were taken away from their families forever, and that is of no comparison to being "disconnected" from one's own family and friends. There are times when it is essential to stay gray, and find common ground between two opposites and there are other times, times like in this case where boundaries are truly defined, because in such a case, train wrecks like James Roszko could never happen because nobody would allow it to progress that far.

This case changed how Mounties are trained and also increased the level of protection which they're afforded when dealing in similar situations. Perhaps cases like this should serve as a reminder of how important some boundaries are because if such boundaries had been kept in mind by the public who'd known of James Roszko, perhaps such tragedies as this would not occur at all. I am not talking so much about the legalization movement and Canada's choice to legalize marijuana. I believe that will have last benefits to law enforcement and to society and the economy.

I am ultimately talking about the history of James Roszko, which ultimately should have set off someone's alarm. Read the article entitled The Terrible Secrets Of Dennis Cheeseman.

Anyway, the anniversary of this tragedy is just around the corner (March 3). Its a shame that tragedies such as these happen at all. For that matter its a shame that mass killings occur with either Officers or civilians as victims, yet there is a collective predatory nature in today's society that seems to be fascinated with making people who are capable of such deeds. Perhaps it is time that we stopped turning a blind eye to such activities?

Please take a little bit of time to consider what Officers like those lost in the Mayerthorpe tragedy risk every day. Maybe if we all put a little bit of effort in the direction of helping we can avert such tragedies. Remember that those involved in Policing service take risks every day and they are no different than the brave members of our Armed Forces.

As I stated in my prior (and now deleted) post, I'll continue working on A Lady's Prerogative III, both The Debate and Singularity on Tuesday 26 or Wednesday 27 of February (next week). I might have some other surprises soon too.

I am Brian Joseph Johns and this is

Brian Joseph Johns

200 Sherbourne Street #701
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5A 3Z5