BROADCAST DATE : Feb 4, 2009

Mayerthorpe tragedy : Collateral Damage

It was a brutal crime that has become engraved in Canada’s national memory – four young RCMP officers shot down by a deranged loner on a quiet hilltop near the town of Mayerthorpe, Alberta.

March 3, 2015 marks the ten year anniversary of the shooting deaths of the Mayerthorpe ‘fallen four’: Const. Anthony Gordon, Const. Lionide (Leo) Johnston, Const. Brock Myrol and Const. Peter Schiemann.

The massacre happened at a farm belonging to James Roszko, a convicted sexual predator who was known to have used guns to get his way. On the afternoon of March 2, 2005, bailiffs arrived on Roszko’s property to repossess a white pickup truck and received a hostile reception. They asked the RCMP for help, but Roszko fled the scene before they arrived.

With the farm abandoned, the bailiffs and Mounties from the nearby Mayerthorpe detachment went exploring and discovered a marijuana grow operation.

Roszko, meanwhile, tried to find a place to hide his pickup truck. He asked Shawn Hennessey, who lived in the neighboring town of Barrhead, if he could hide the truck at his house, but Hennessey said no. Later that evening, Roszko returned, brandishing a 9mm pistol, demanding a rifle and a ride.

It was the beginning of a nightmare that would draw Hennessey and his brother-in-law, Dennis Cheeseman, into the worst police massacre in modern Canadian history – the March 3rd killing of the four Mounties by James Roszko, who then took his own life.

In an exclusive interview with the fifth estate’s Linden MacIntyre, Shawn Hennessey and his wife, Christine, reveal how their involvement with Roszko unfolded and how they were caught in an unrelenting RCMP investigation that would ultimately send Hennessey and Cheeseman to prison, despite the fact that they had not pulled the trigger or even been at the scene of the crime.

“Collateral Damage” raises questions about whether the investigation into the Mayerthorpe police killings, including the arrests of Hennessey and Cheeseman, was intended to distract attention away from allegations of negligence within the police force.