A raid on a suspected marijuana grow operation in rural Alberta has left five people dead â four of them RCMP officers. It is the single worst multiple killing of RCMP officers in modern Canadian history.
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"It's my sad duty to inform you that four members of the RCMP were killed today in the line of duty â 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 â 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.
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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.
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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.