James Roszko casually walked out of a large Quonset hut after gunning down four RCMP officers, now-retired corporal Stephen Vigor told an Alberta fatality inquiry Friday.
The inquiry at the Stony Plain courthouse is looking into Roszko’s ambush and murder of RCMP constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann on Roszko's property near Mayerthorpe on March 3, 2005.
Roszko seemed surprised to see him, Vigor testified. Roszko shot at him, but missed and hit a police vehicle.
Vigor returned fire, getting off two shots. Roszko "staggered back into the Quonset," he said.
At the time, Vigor thought he had missed Roszko, but later learned he hit him in the thigh and wrist before Roszko eventually killed himself.
Vigor was a member of the RCMP auto-theft unit when he was called to investigate Roszko's farm, where stolen vehicles had been found on March 2. He was told there was no urgency.
"Due to the non-urgency — the lighting conditions, etc. — it was decided we should go up first thing in the morning," he said.
He and partner Const. Garrett Hoogestraat arrived at the farm at 9:56 a.m., he told the inquiry. He had his sidearm with him.
As they pulled up they saw four officers, two on a roof and two on the ground, near the Quonset. Hoogestraat spoke with those officers while Vigor pulled out coveralls to begin work on the stolen vehicles.
Hoogestraat returned to the vehicle as the four officers entered the building, where there was a marijuana grow-op, he said. Then they heard loud bangs, like a mallet, Vigor said.
After "half a dozen to eight more loud bangs, I came to the realization at that point they were gunshots."
He then heard yelling from the building. Vigor grabbed his gun when he saw Roszko "casually walking" out, he said.
Moments after being shot by Vigor, Roszko shot and killed himself.
"My guess is that he had been watching," said Vigor. "He knew that there were four members on scene. So when the initial confrontation occurred, he wasn't expecting to see us [Vigor and Hoogestraat]."
Rescue too risky
Vigor was asked about the possibility of rescuing the downed officers from the Quonset. The risk was initially too great, he said struggling to control his emotions.
"I felt that this wasn't going to be a rescue attempt," he said. "It was going to be a recovery attempt."
After his testimony Vigor spoke with reporters about the ambush.
"There's nothing we could have done differently, in my opinion," he said. "That’s the type of situation that goes on dozens of times each week in Alberta."
"The only difference was James Roszko came back with the intent to murder police officers."
Vigor was asked about shooting Roszko.
"I’m not proud of the fact I had to kill someone, but I’m proud of the fact that I stopped him and stopped him from taking more lives."
The inquiry is scheduled to run 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.