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James Michael ROSZKO

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


The Mayerthorpe Incident
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Canada's deadliest police shooting in 120 years - Marijuana grow-op
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: March 3, 2005
Date of birth: 1959?
Victims profile: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constables Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon, Lionide Johnston, and Brock Myrol
Method of murder: Shooting (Heckler & Koch 91, a civilian version of a military battle rifle)
Location: Rochfort Bridge, Alberta, Canada
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo gallery
 
 
 
 
 
 
timeline victims
 
 
 
 
 

Prosecution History

 
Report on James Michael Roszko
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Mayerthorpe Incident occurred on March 3, 2005 on the property of James Roszko in Rochfort Bridge, northwest of Edmonton near the town of Mayerthorpe, in the Canadian province of Alberta.

With a Heckler & Koch 91, a civilian version of a military battle rifle, Roszko shot and killed Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constables Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon, Lionide Johnston, and Brock Myrol as the officers were executing a property seizure on the farm.

This was the worst one-day loss of life for the RCMP in 100 years. On February 10, 2008 CTV aired a feature length made-for-TV movie called "Mayerthorpe".

The incident

Other officers initially went to the farm to assist bailiffs in trying to repossess a truck but Roszko fled in it. Numerous stolen vehicle parts and a marijuana grow-op were found on the premises. Search warrants were obtained and executed. Constables Gordon and Johnston were providing scene security.

Cst. Schiemann arrived to drop off Cst. Myrol. The four officers were ambushed inside a Quonset shed on the farm. Roszko had apparently returned to the property allegedly getting a ride from Shawn Hennessey and Dennis Cheeseman during the night and laid in wait for an opportunity.

After fatally shooting the four officers, Roszko emerged from the shed and fired on two other officers who had just arrived and were preparing to examine the vehicles on the property. The officers were not hit, and returned fire. Roszko, wounded during either the intitial exchange of gunfire or during the exchange with the two officers outside, then retreated into the shed.

After losing radio contact with the officers in the shed, RCMP Emergency Response Teams and an armoured vehicle from the Canadian Forces' Edmonton Garrison were called in, and the airspace over the property was closed.

The four officers and Roszko were all found fatally shot; it has since been confirmed that Roszko killed all four officers, and then turned his weapon on himself.

One of the deceased officers, Constable Brock Warren Myrol, had graduated a month before from the RCMP Academy, Depot Division. He had been on duty only 17 days.

Aftermath

A memorial service for the slain officers was held in Edmonton on March 10, 2005 and televised nationally on CBC. Prime Minister Paul Martin and Governor General Adrienne Clarkson both spoke at the service. Many police officers from Canada and the United States were in attendance.

On May 19, 2005, Queen Elizabeth II, attended a ceremony in honour of the slain officers at the RCMP Training Academy in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The CBC program the fifth estate also made a documentary about the incident, which first aired on December 7, 2005. The full documentary can be downloaded from the CBC website (see links below).

A by-product of the massacre was the halt to marijuana decriminalization legislation in the Canadian Parliament. Only days before the massacre, the leader of the Marijuana Party endorsed the Liberal Party after the government introduced a bill to decriminalize use and possession of marijuana. In the wake of the tragedy, the Liberals shelved the bill, and it was predicted that no action would take place for at least a year.

Before a year had elapsed, Martin's government was defeated and the Conservative Party, which opposed decriminalization, was elected. Many media commentators suggested the massacre was an argument against marijuana decriminalization; some others argued the incident only occurred because the officers were on a drug raid. As the details of Roszko's violent history and hatred for the police became apparent, these arguments generally faded from the public discourse.

The Fallen Four Memorial Society was founded to honour the slain policemen. The group initiated the building of the Fallen Four Memorial Park in Mayerthorpe, scheduled to open on July 4, 2008.

James Roszko

James Roszko (1959? - March 3, 2005) was a Canadian man who at the time of the massacre was operating a hydroponic marijuana grow-op in Rochfort Bridge, Alberta. 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.

Roszko was also suspected of various property crimes, which were the main thrust of the investigation prior to the shooting. He had a history of violent and sexual offences. At the time of the incident he was prohibited from legally possessing firearms.

Police also found lists containing the names and call signs of RCMP officers from the detachments in Mayerthorpe, Whitecourt and Evansburg, Alberta. The lists also contained the cellular numbers assigned to their vehicles.

Also found were a .308 calibre Heckler & Koch 91 semi-automatic rifle, and a 300 Magnum which had been reported missing by Shawn Hennessey's grandfather, and a 9 mm Beretta. The .308 and the 9 mm were not registered.

Charges are laid in 2007

On July 9, 2007, two men, Shawn Hennessey, 28, and Dennis Cheeseman, 23, were charged as parties to the offences committed by James Roszko. In 2006, Mr. Hennessey denied any links to the crime. The RCMP spent more than $2-million investigating the incident, using between 40 and 200 officers on the case since 2005. The charges were the result of an undercover investigation. The two accused men appeared in court on July 12.

The murder charges against Mr. Hennessey and Cheeseman are controversial due to the fact neither man was present at the crime scene of the incident although if they did transport James Roszko back to his farm (they obviously did not inform police officers about giving James Roszko a ride even after the incident) they could still face murder charges.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

The suspect

Jim Roszko

CBC News Online | March 9, 2005

A wicked devil. That's how 80-year-old Bill Roszko described his son to reporters the day police identified 46-year-old Jim Roszko as the man responsible for Canada's deadliest police shooting in 120 years.

Bill Roszko said his son was on a dangerous path since he started experimenting with drugs and guns as a teenager. They lived in the same area but they hadn't spoken in nine years.

The Roszko family settled in the rural area 130 kilometres northwest of Edmonton about 100 years ago. The family name is common in the area.

Neighbours described Jim Roszko as a loner - a man who went out of his way to remain private. Roszko drifted apart from his parents, four brothers and three sisters. For the past 15 years, he lived in a trailer on 200 hectares of land northeast of Mayerthorpe.

He rented out some of his land to local cattle farmers.

A neighbour told CBC News that Roszko had a reputation and people generally stayed out of his way.

"He never wanted anybody to come on his land," Dianne Romeo said. "He had two really mean dogs. So nobody really bothered him much there."

Romeo said Roszko had several run-ins with the RCMP.

Roszko racked up a string of charges dating back nearly 30 years. Court and parole documents give details of his criminal past, which included pointing a loaded handgun at a young man he had lured into his house and demanding sex, as well as using alcohol and money in attempts to befriend young people.

The trail started in February 1976, when Roszko faced charges including break and enter, and possession of stolen property. He was sentenced to one year's probation in April 1979.

Three charges of failing to comply with a probation order earned him 45 days in jail in December 1993.

There were also dismissed charges of counselling to commit murder and pointing a firearm, of assault and of impersonating a police officer.

In 1994, he was charged with sexually assaulting a young male, and later spent 2 years in prison.

In September 1999, there was yet another weapons charge, which was dropped.

It was followed by a psychiatric profile done in 2000 that said Roszko refused to accept responsibility for his crimes and was preoccupied with legal proceedings. It recommended keeping him locked up.

In total, Roszko was charged with 36 crimes, including driving and trespassing offences, and convicted of 12 of them. At the time of his death, he was facing two charges of mischief to property.

Lawyer Guy Fontaine represented Roszko on many of the charges, and knew him for 20 years. He says Roszko hated the RCMP and blamed them for interfering with his life.

"These police officers were completely mindful, they were completely aware of Roszko's history, of his files, of his involvement with the law," said Fontaine. "They were completely aware of his potentiality towards violence."

When Roszko was a teenager, he and a friend robbed a gun shop, according to his brother, George Roszko.

The suspect's brother and father also said Roszko started using drugs early on in life and made money on the side by making moonshine before moving on to other substances.

Neighbours said Roszko regularly confronted people around his sprawling farm property for no apparent reason and didn't hesitate to fire warning shots.

At a local pub, area resident Sharon Seymour alluded to a man who was feared by many in the town.

"He's led a troubled life and he's put a lot of grief on a few families in this town," she said.

Bill Roszko said his son appeared to be on a collision course with the RCMP.

"I think he had terrible hate against the police."

 
 

The Shooter

James Roszko was every small town's nightmare.

The 46-year-old long-term resident of the Mayerthorpe, Alta. area was a gun-loving, cop-hating, violent, bullying, manipulative convicted pedophile.

"James Roszko is one of the worst psychopaths it has ever been my misfortune to run across," Bailiff Brenda Storm told CTV News.

Five years ago, she seized cattle from his farm -- wearing body armour while she did so. She says Roszko's hatred for the police was clear.

"... He blamed all of his problems on the RCMP," she said.

An affidavit signed by Storm and recently made public concludes that Roszko was likely to shoot anyone he found on his property.

"Learned that he was quite dangerous," she wrote in her report, "has a long history of assaults, in possession of a number of firearms, would most likely shoot anyone on the property on sight, is known to have booby-trapped land and used a spike belt to discourage vehicles."

Despite the fact that many considered Roszko to be a walking time bomb and he faced a slew of charges in his lifetime, including firearms-related offences and sexual assault, his record is relatively free of criminal convictions.

Roszko was imprisoned for two-and-a-half years after being convicted in April, 2000, for sexually assaulting a young boy between January, 1983, and December, 1989.

The boy was 10 when the assaults began.

According to a report by the Toronto Star and The Canadian Press, the victim told the court that when he reached driving age, Roszko indicated he would help him with an auto insurance claim if the two had oral sex.

While in prison, he refused to take responsibility for his actions and spurned treatment, causing him to serve two-thirds of his sentence rather than gaining parole.

When he applied for parole in December of 2000, nine months into his sentence, the National Parole Board wrote: "You vigorously deny responsibility for the sexual assaults."

After being released, he was thrown back in prison for refusing to accept treatment or co-operate with his parole officer.

Roszko's troubles began at the age of 12 when his mother left the family home, leaving his father Bill to raise eight children alone.

At 14, he was caught with marijuana in his room.

A few years later, in 1976, he faced break and enter, and possession of stolen property charges.

As an adult, he worked in the oil patch as a driller on oil-well rigs. He eventually bought some land and tried raising cattle.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, his sister Josephine Ruel said her brother went through a lot.

"It started very young. We tried to let him know we'd help him. But he couldn't overcome it. A lot of people played a part in that."

In 1993, a confrontation with a local school trustee over a school bus stop being moved led to Roszko being charged with 12 offences. He only went to trial on seven charges and was acquitted.

The Globe and Mail reported that one night in the fall of that same year, Roszko terrorized a young male acquaintance at gunpoint, eventually coercing the man into a sexual encounter. He was forced to perform several sexual acts with him in front of a camera.

A dozen offences connected to these assaults were laid but some were dismissed. The trial eventually collapsed when the alleged victim refused to testify.

"Mike" (a pseudonym) told The Globe that Roszko had threatened to kill his family.

The Canadian Press reported that also in 1993, Roszko tried to convince another man to kill for him.

According to court documents, Roszko offered the man $10,000 to kill a Mayerthorpe man with an automatic assault rifle that may have been the same one used to shoot the Mounties.

He was charged with counselling another person to commit murder but the charge was dropped when the judge ruled that talking about killing someone is not the same thing as plotting to kill someone.

One of the conditions of Roszko's initial release -- after he was arrested on the charge and six other firearms-related charges -- was that he stay away from the RCMP. But according to the Crown prosecutor Craig Krieger, police thought Roszko was following them. He was later acquitted of the six firearms-related charges when the witness didn't appear in court.

Meanwhile in 1993, Roszko spent 45 days in jail for three charges of failing to comply with a probation order, according to a report by the CBC.

In 2001, Roszko was charged with five offences in response to a 1999 incident in which he shot and wounded one man and missed a second. There are differing stories of why they were at his farm -- either for a joy ride or to warn Roszko to stay away from their friend.

Those charges were dismissed in 2003.

His last criminal charge was in August 2004 for mischief against property. Spike belts on his property had ruined the tires on the vehicles of two provincial election enumerators.

There was no mistaking his unfriendliness to visitors. "No trespassing" signs were clearly posted above guard dogs that stood watch over his property near Rochfort Bridge, Alta.

Roszko reportedly used a scanner to monitor police radio traffic wherever he went. Back at home, he set up his property so that he could see all comings and goings.

There were rumours he had weapons hidden all over the property despite the fact that the courts banned him from owning firearms following his 2000 conviction.

Josephine tried to find some good in her brother. She recalls him bringing her food when she was experiencing tough times.

Others have said Roszko could pull on a mask of normality when required.

But his capacity for violence, paranoia and hatred of authority made the events of March 2 and 3 seem inevitable.

 

 

RCMP shooter's records paint chilling picture

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - CBC News

More questions are cropping up about how the RCMP handled James Roszko, the Alberta gunman who killed four officers last week, in the light of court and parole records detailing his 36 criminal charges.

The records show that the police force warned others about Roszko's violent tendencies on at least one occasion, but nonetheless sent four lightly armed officers onto Roszko's farm in Rochfort Bridge to seize stolen goods and marijuana plants.

In a 1999 report, a bailiff sent to seize cattle on his farm wrote: "Called a number of informants, including the RCMP, about this debtor. Learned he was quite dangerous ... in possession of a number of firearms."

Retired RCMP officer Kim Connell used to police the region, and is now deputy mayor of the town of Mayerthorpe.

"Every time you met him, it was a violent confrontation," he said of Roszko.

Even during routine traffic checks, he said, "The members would stop him and the argument would be on, the screaming and yelling and spitting."

As the funerals for the dead officers began Tuesday, the RCMP said the Rochfort Bridge tragedy is under review.

"Any time we have an incident such as this, there is an automatic review of what was done," said Cpl. Wayne Oakes, spokesperson for the RCMP in Alberta. "The whole process was put under the microscope, and really, it's a way of improving and developing your best practices."

Offences range from trespassing to assault

Roszko's records detail the 46-year-old man's long criminal past, which included pointing a loaded handgun at a young man he had lured into his house and demanding sex, as well as using alcohol and money in attempts to befriend young people.

The trail started in February 1976, when Roszko faced charges including break and enter and possession of stolen property. He was sentenced to one year's probation in April 1979.

Three charges of failing to comply with a probation order earned him 45 days in jail in December 1993.

There were also dismissed charges of counselling to commit murder and pointing a firearm; of assault and of impersonating a police officer.

In 1994, he was charged with sexually assaulting a young male, and later spent two and a half years in prison.

In September 1999, there was yet another weapons charge, which was dropped.

It was followed by a psychiatric profile done in 2000 that said Roszko refused to accept responsibility for his crimes and was preoccupied with legal proceedings. It recommended keeping him locked up.

In total, Roszko was charged with 36 crimes, including driving and trespassing offences, and convicted of 12 of them.

At the time of his death, he was facing two charges of mischief to property.

'I could see fire in his eyes'

Lawyer Guy Fontaine represented Roszko on many of the charges, and knew him for 20 years.

"He felt he was being persecuted rather than prosecuted," Fontaine said in an interview by police, by family members, and by those who accused him of crimes.

"I could see fire in his eyes whenever we reviewed the evidence of one or more of the Crown witnesses, and more particularly police witnesses. He had a definite hatred for the RCMP."

Roszko could be reasoned with if you took the time, but there seemed to be warning signs everywhere, he added.

"These police officers were completely mindful, they were completely aware of Roszko's history, of his files, of his involvement with the law," said Fontaine. "They were completely aware of his potentiality towards violence."

 
 

4 RCMP officers killed on Alberta farm

Friday, March 4, 2005 - CBC News

A raid on a suspected marijuana grow operation in rural Alberta has left five people dead four of them RCMP officers. It is the single worst multiple killing of RCMP officers in modern Canadian history.

"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 RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bill Sweeney. All of those killed were described as junior officers.

Police have not officially named the deceased officers but one of them has been identified as 29-year-old Const. Broack Myrol, originally of Red Deer, Alta.

Friends say Myrol had joined the Mayerthorpe detachment a mere two weeks ago, and had recently become engaged to his girlfriend.

A national newspaper also identified one of the deceased as Const. Leo Johnston, a 33-year-old ace marksman. Johnson had been on the force about four years and had received Crown Pistols and Crown Rifles badges.

According to police the incident unfolded early Thursday morning when four RCMP officers three from the Mayerthorpe detachment and another from nearby Whitecourt, took part in a raid on a farm near Rochfort Bridge. The officers were investigating allegations of stolen property and a marijuana grow operation.

Rochfort Bridge is located near Mayerthorpe, about 130 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Looking ashen and shaken, RCMP spokesman Cpl. Wayne Oakes told a news conference that the officers were killed inside a Quonset hut - a rounded, steel storage facility - on the farm. They had been shot.

Their bodies were discovered by emergency response team officers at about 2:20 p.m.

Asked if the victims had been ambushed, Oakes said, "I don't know."

The suspect in the killings has been identified as Jim Roszko, 46, who apparently killed himself after the shootout.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the suspect's father Bill Roszko said that his son was on a dangerous path and they hadn't spoken in nine years.

"He's not my son, he's a wicked devil," said Bill Roszko.

The killing of the four officers appears to be unprecedented in modern Canadian history. "You'd have to go back to 1885, to the Northwest Rebellion, to have a loss of this magnitude. It's devastating," said Sweeney.

Police went to property Wednesday

The incident started on Wednesday afternoon when police went to the property to investigate a suspected grow op. While there, they saw stolen car parts and stolen property. Two officers remained overnight.

Around 10 a.m. local time Thursday, the other officers returned and were shot at. They returned fire.

Police requested help from the military around noon.

The first word of a problem came from Alberta Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko who said the RCMP lost contact with the four at about 10 a.m.

"As far as we know, there's four officers not responding to their radios, so there is an indication that something is serious here," Cenaiko said earlier in the day.

After the shooting the RCMP rushed at least two emergency response teams from Edmonton and Red Deer to the area, along with reinforcements from the Edmonton police. The Canadian military was put on alert, but later told it wasn't needed.

 
 

Shroud of Silence

Ryan Cormier and David Staples - Edmonton Journal

Sunday, February 26 2006

Mayerthorpe -- Several years ago, James Roszko was working on the rigs when a few roughnecks from Newfoundland got out a camera to take pictures of rig life for the folks back home. Roszko noticed, much to his distress, that his picture had been captured in one of the photos.

"He freaked out," says rig veteran Willie Stalwick. "He chased them down, opened up the camera. He didn't want his picture taken."

In life, secrecy and silence cloaked Roszko. He guarded his privacy in paranoid fashion. He concealed his age. He hated that townspeople called him a homosexual and issued death threats to stop such talk. He threatened anyone in authority who came on his property or investigated his various criminal activities, and any witness who agreed to testify against him in court.

By the end of his life he had become a master of stealth, which served him well for he had much to hide, such as his sexual predation, his marijuana cultivation operation and a stolen vehicle-parts operation in the Quonset hut on his farm.

Since March 3, 2005, when Roszko murdered four RCMP officers, much has come out about Roszko's childhood and his later clashes with the law, but there are many unanswered questions about his actions leading up to the massacre. In death, secrecy continues to shroud this crucial part of Roszko's story.

Roszko's acquaintances and relatives who had dealings with him in his last two days refuse to say much. The RCMP have released only the barest details about what happened.

In the absence of good information, bad information - rumour, gossip and speculation - has filled the void. Alternative theories have come out as to what went on during the massacre at Roszko's farm. Chief among them is a theory aired by the CBC's The Fifth Estate, which contradicted the RCMP's official story and criticized the police for their actions that day, something that has outraged the families of the slain officers and spurred them to fight back.

After Roszko fled his farm on the afternoon of March 2, escaping in a 2005 Ford truck that was to be repossessed, he had contact with his mother, Stephanie Fifield. Through the evening, she worked the phones to help him find a place to park his truck.

It ended up at the residence of her sister, Anne Chayka. It's not known who dropped off the truck at the Chayka farm. If it was Roszko himself, it's not known how he got back to his own farm, 351/2 kilometres away.

But it is now known that Fifield has told her family members that she did not give her son a ride that night.

Fifield herself refuses to grant an interview about the details of that night. News reports on the matter have been full of "lies" and "trash," she says in a brief telephone conversation. As long as such reporting continues, none of the dead men will rest, she says, lumping her son Jimmy in with the four Mounties he killed.

"It's not going to bring our sons back," Fifield says of stories on the massacre. "We want people to rest in peace. We want everybody to leave everybody alone."

Roszko turned to one other person in his last hours, a young man named Shawn Hennessey of Barrhead.

Hennessey, 26, got to know Roszko after Roszko got out of jail in October 2001. Townspeople in Mayerthorpe had turned against Roszko in the 1990s, so Roszko started to conduct his business 60 kilometres down the highway in Barrhead, where people didn't know his reputation.

One of his favourite stops in Barrhead was the Kal Tire shop, where he got to know two young store employees, Hennessey and Aaron Burdek.

Hennessey and Burdek are well-known in Barrhead for their prowess in the ring at the Brotherhood Boxing Club.

"(Shawn) was very dedicated," says his old coach, Mark Waggoner. "He'd always show up for practice and when he'd come, he'd always smile. I called him Smilin' Shawn Hennessey."

Hennessey is also known in Barrhead for a rough period he went through as a young man, drinking too much and getting into fist fights. But Hennessey is now married, has two daughters and has changed his ways, says his friend, Chris Harder. "For all of five or six years, he's been nothing but a good guy. He goes to work, takes care of his family."

Hennessey met Roszko three or four years ago, then later worked for Roszko on his farm. Their last known contact, according to RCMP search warrants, came from 3:34 p.m. to 4:28 p.m. on March 2, 2005, when Roszko talked a number of times to Hennessey over the phone. Hennessey later told the RCMP that despite Roszko's repeated requests, he refused to allow Roszko to stash his truck at Hennessey's home outside of Barrhead.

After information from the search warrants was reported in November 2005, many in Barrhead got stirred up over the issue. Hennessey's mother was so stressed by all the talk, she took a few days off work, a co-worker says. Hennessey's boss at Kal Tire, Steve Hunter, believes Hennessey has been smeared simply because he knew Roszko.

"There's no story with Shawn," Hunter says. "It's been almost a year now and if police had anything on him, they would have charged him. ... Shawn didn't take his (Roszko's) truck or help him in any way."

Hennessey has refused requests to talk to the media, but in the days after Hennessey's name first was reported, Hunter became his unofficial spokesman, telling the

Barrhead Leader that if Hennessey was guilty of anything, it was being stupid about with whom he chose to associate.

In the Leader story, Hunter addressed allegations found in the search warrants that Hennessey was involved in the marijuana grow-op with Roszko. Hennessey was working 60 hours a week at Kal Tire, Hunter told the Leader, making it impossible for him to have had extensive dealings with Roszko. "With the amount of hours I work him, he'd have to be Superman," Hunter said.

Nineteen-year-old rig worker Aaron Burdek also met Roszko at Kal Tire and ended up working at Roszko's farm. Roszko attended some of Burdek's boxing matches.

In the RCMP's search warrants, Burdek is linked to Roszko through a truck which Roszko used to drive, a 1993 F150.

Two weeks after the massacre, the RCMP seized it from Burdek in Grande Prairie. Police later returned it to its registered owner, Roszko's mother. The truck's serial numbers were found to have been covered over with the serial numbers from another truck, a sign that the vehicle had been in a chop shop.

Hunter told the Barrhead Leader that Burdek didn't know about Roszko's troubled past when Burdek went to work at the farm. "Somebody would have had to tell him, 'Don't go work for that guy, he's a convicted sex offender.' The kid didn't know. He was looking at it as easy money."

Burdek's father, David, says his son has no connection to the events of March 2 and 3. "My son had nothing to do with the incident. What was in the police reports is all that needs to be said. Anything else is just speculation and rumour."

Rumour, gossip and speculation have also arisen from photographs of the Quonset hut crime scene after the massacre.

When the RCMP at last entered the Quonset hut, tactical officers pulled out two of the shot officers so they might receive medical attention outside of any possible line of fire, RCMP officials have said. This is why news photographs of the crime scene, taken after the tactical team's entry, show slain officers on the ground outside the Quonset hut, RCMP spokesman Cpl. Wayne Oakes says.

The photographs are at the centre of the uproar over The Fifth Estate's documentary, which aired in December 2005. It contradicted the RCMP's official chronology of events and questioned the training and competence of the four slain officers.

On air, reporter Linden MacIntyre suggested the four junior officers were unaware of the danger posed by Roszko, so much so that they allowed him to sneak into the Quonset hut while they were feeding the dogs drugged meat that morning of March 3: "It was almost as if they had forgotten about the man who owned the place."

The Fifth Estate also "reconstructed" the massacre. In its version - which MacIntyre said was based on the photographs and other sources - the gunfight happened outside the Quonset hut, not inside, with Brock Myrol shot first, Anthony Gordon drawing his gun before he and Peter Schiemann were cut down, then Leo Johnston, taking cover behind a police car, firing on Roszko before being killed.

Outraged by the CBC documentary, relatives of the four slain officers are now blasting The Fifth Estate.

"I can't believe what The Fifth Estate has done," says Rev. Don Schiemann. "It's kind of like we're down and they just went and kicked us in the groin on top of it, with all the misinformation and the lies and the misrepresentation, implying that all four of them were untrained junior officers that didn't know any better, and that they weren't even aware of this Roszko, which is just bizarre."

Peter Schiemann had long known of Roszko's potential for danger, his father says. After Peter's death, his family went through his papers and found an old list of 12 to 15 names of dangerous criminals in the Mayerthorpe area. Roszko's name was on it.

Rev. Schiemann has been told by officers who were present that on the evening of March 2, as Mounties searched Roszko's farm, one officer was standing so that he was silhouetted by a light, making a target of himself, until Peter Schiemann reminded him he should be more careful.

Const. Anthony Gordon's wife, Kim, taped the CBC documentary but later erased it, not wanting her two boys to ever see this "fictional" account of their father's death. "I will not have them hear how some reporters thought their dad was playing with a bunch of dogs and ignorant to his surroundings before he was murdered."

Gordon says she knows The Fifth Estate's reconstruction to be false because MacIntyre stated her husband drew his gun.

Based on autopsy reports and her conversations with RCMP officers who were at the scene, Gordon says she's certain her husband never had his gun out and there is a very good chance he never even saw Roszko.

"They (The Fifth Estate) literally must have made it up on their own, just pulled things out of the air, I guess."

The Fifth Estate's executive producer, David Studer, maintains the documentary was fair. "We believe that our story was both correct in its statements of fact and clear in labelling theses and scenarios as such. ... It is impossible to respond to allegations of error based on secret RCMP information which we can neither assess or even know."

The Fifth Estate's only goal was to get out the real facts, but the RCMP fought against this, added MacIntyre and producer Scott Anderson: "We attempted to do so without any assistance from and in spite of some obstruction from the RCMP."

While both Schiemann and Gordon think The Fifth Estate's reconstruction was inaccurate, it's ultimately inconsequential to them whether or not the four men were ambushed inside or outside of the Quonset hut.

"He (Roszko) still would have got them," Gordon says. "If they had 20 years experience, he still would have got them. It wouldn't change the end result."

There was little the officers could do against a suicidal killer, who planned to place himself at utmost advantage and his prey at utmost disadvantage, Schiemann says.

"If they had done things differently I'm sure Roszko would have found another way to take them out."

In the wake of the killings, wild rumours circulated, such as the notion that Roszko moved around his property through a series of tunnels. Oakes says he pushed hard within the RCMP to get out as much accurate information about the massacre as he could in those early days, which is why a six-page report with a chronology of events was released on March 20, 2005.

Since The Fifth Estate documentary aired, Oakes has gone back to the RCMP investigators on the case and found there is no new information that contradicts the original news releases. The officers were killed inside, not outside, Oakes says. "I feel very confident that that is a factual, truthful statement."

Oakes says the RCMP have no choice but to be careful releasing any new information, as two separate investigations looking at the massacre are ongoing: a federal government probe that takes place whenever federal employees are killed on the job and an RCMP investigation that could lead to criminal charges against anyone who helped Roszko commit his crime.

The criminal investigation will only wrap up after there are no more investigative avenues. Only then, perhaps years from now, will a fatality inquiry be held. The facts will become public once the various investigations are complete, Oakes says. "We know that the Canadian public wants to know what happened. We want to know."

The families of the four slain officers are content to wait to find out more about the massacre. Rev. Schiemann doesn't like to dwell on what happened.

"Everybody is curious and interested in those two minutes in the Quonset hut, and obviously that happened, and it has changed everybody's life since then, but if you stay there, it will drive you crazy."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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