Slain officers' families blame justice system
Parents of Mayerthorpe victims clear RCMP in emotional testimony
The families of four RCMP officers ambushed and killed six years ago on a farm near Mayerthorpe, Alta., accused the justice system Friday of failing their sons.
"The justice system failed us many times," said Don Schiemann on the final day of the fatality inquiry looking into the events leading up to the massacre.
Schiemann's son, Const. Peter Schiemann, died alongside constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston and Brock Myrol when James Roszko surprised them on March 3, 2005.
Roszko was a known troublemaker, a violent man with a reputation for hating police. The officers were guarding his farm after discovering a marijuana grow-op and stolen vehicles in a Quonset hut.
Parole hearing next
The families of the slain officers are now awaiting a parole hearing in May for Dennis Cheeseman, who is eligible to apply for full parole in June 2011.
"I suppose we'll have to go and attend that ... so it hasn't ended," said Colleen Myrol outside the Stony Plain courthouse Friday.Shawn Hennessey is not eligible until 2012. He can apply for day parole in January 2012 and full parole in July of that year.
Roszko sneaked into the Quonset under darkness and fatally shot the four officers. He killed himself after he was hit by return fire.
Roszko's criminal history troubling
Schiemann, the first family member to address the fatality inquiry on Friday, said there are too many opportunities for offenders to stickhandle through the justice system.
It was most troubling to hear details of Roszko's long criminal history. The failure of the courts to deal with Roszko culminated in a perfect storm resulting in the officers' deaths, he said. "In my opinion the courts dropped the ball."
Some people have been left with the impression that the officers were young and inexperienced and were sent to their deaths by superiors, Schiemann said.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said.
Schiemann also talked about his son's handwritten list of people known to police in the community considered to be dangerous.
"It is chilling to think there may be other James Roszkos out there," he said.
Brock Myrol's mother Colleen agreed RCMP policy was properly followed leading up to the shootings.
To those who continue to question the officers' abilities, she said, "All I say as a mom — back off."
Hennessey, Cheeseman share blame
She pointed the finger at Shawn Hennessey and Dennis Cheeseman, who gave Roszko a rifle and watched him put socks over his boots in preparing for the ambush. They knew he intended to do harm, she said.
He noted the Mayerthorpe detachment had only one rifle. Every detachment should have at least three high-powered rifles, he said.
The officers were outpowered by Roszko and they need the right weapon for the job, Myrol said.
He also suggested the guarding of crime scenes should be handled in a more military fashion. Guards should be guards, he said, and not responsible for collecting evidence as well.
Like most family members, Leo Johnston's mother Grace Johnston spoke about how difficult it was to sit through the weeks of detailed testimony.
Inquiry a difficult time
"I've tried to stay focused through this because it hurts too much not to," she said through tears.
Johnston said she hoped police would get front and back protective armour and better communications equipment for rural areas.
The inquiry ended Friday. The judge may now make recommendations to prevent similar occurrences but is prohibited, under the Alberta Fatality Inquiries Act, from making findings of legal responsibility.
Public hearings held under the act are limited to establishing the cause, manner, time, place and circumstances of death, as well as the identity of the deceased.
With files from John Archer