A former senior officer at the Mayerthorpe RCMP detachment apologized Wednesday to the father of one of the four Mounties gunned down on a northern Alberta farm nearly six years ago.
Sgt. James Martin, then a corporal, testified at a fatality inquiry looking into James Roszko’s ambush and murder of constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann on his property on March 3, 2005.
Don Schiemann, father of Peter Schiemann, asked Martin on Wednesday about what police knew about Roszko’s violent past and how prepared senior officers were in ensuring the Mounties were safe.
Police made every preparation they could, said Martin, the acting senior officer at that time.
Police could not know, but were prepared for, the possibility that Roszko would return to the farm intending to ambush officers guarding a marijuana grow-op discovered the previous day.
'A personal oversight'
But Martin told Don Schiemann he is sorry that Schiemann’s son was not wearing an armoured vest or carrying a sidearm.
"It was a personal oversight on my behalf," he said. "I am sorry about the oversight. As supervisors we have to make sure our members have the right tools."
Martin told Schiemann his son had more experience than a lot of other officers who worked for the same amount of time, but at smaller, less-busy detachments. Peter Schiemann was very proficient in shooting with a rifle, he said.
Martin also said to Schiemann that if he hadn't received a phone call just before leaving the detachment that morning, he too would have been among the victims.
"I venture to guess I would be with those other four officers."
Later in the day Colleen Myrol, mother of Brock Myrol, also challenged Martin over whether the officers were properly equipped.
She asked Martin why the detachment had no night-vision equipment.
"It's OK to borrow a cup of sugar," she said. "But I think it's time our detachments have what they need."
Martin said he still thinks about the decisions he made.
"It's an understatement that it's been difficult," he told reporters outside the Stony Plain courthouse. "I've judged my own decision-making skills and gone through exactly what was done."
In the end, he said, most of the decisions he made were the right ones.
The inquiry is scheduled to run at the Stony Plain courthouse until Feb. 1. Public hearings held under the Alberta Fatality Inquiries Act are limited to establishing the cause, manner, time, place and circumstances of death, as well as the identity of the deceased, police said.
The judge may make recommendations to prevent similar occurrences but is prohibited, under the act, from making findings of legal responsibility.