McAdam residents rally around man accused of 'taking law into own hands'
Man accused of 6 crimes, including pointing firearm, assault with a weapon and forcible confinement
About 50 people from McAdam, including the mayor, turned out at the Fredericton courthouse Thursday to support a villager facing charges after what some are describing as a case of vigilante justice.
Villagers are fed up with property crimes by frequent reoffenders, Mayor Ken Stannix said in a an interview from outside the courthouse.
"The criminals are getting away with everything," he said.
"I wanted to support the individuals who allegedly took the law into their own hands."
Billy McGillicuddy, 41, of St. Croix, N.B., appeared by video in court later in the day for a bail hearing in connection with six criminal charges, including pointing a firearm, a sawed-off shotgun, assault with a weapon, a baseball bat, and forcible confinement against Blake Scott.
The charges all stem from incidents that allegedly happened on June 4.
Defence lawyer Gerald Pugh called on three witnesses to testify as part of the hearing, for which a publication ban was in effect.
Judge Mary Jane Richards reserved her decision on whether to grant bail until Friday.
Another person was arrested but released without being charged.
Defenders see 'hard-working individual'
Only three supporters were allowed into the courthouse because of COVID precautions, said Rosemary Blair, a Fredericton woman who knew the accused as a former pastor.
"We know he's a good man," she said of the accused.
Both of the people arrested were "fathers, hard-working individuals," Stannix said.
McGillicuddy is a former minister from the McAdam Fellowship Church, who worked with youth and "had a very positive impact on the community," he said.
The man released earlier is a contractor.
"They're just solid people within the community, he said.
"It just gives you an idea of the level of frustration that people are going through."
Problem going on for years
Stannix and Blair said this issue has been building for a number of years.
Stannix said there have been incidents such as a gas tank being drilled to steal $20 worth of gas from an elderly person, who then had to spend hundreds of dollars on repairs.
A contractor also had equipment stolen from the back of a vehicle, he said.
It may seem minor, said Stannix, but incidents like these are "unsettling."
"So, yes, people reached a boiling point."
Stannix said he has spoken with the RCMP and the provincial Department of Justice and Public Safety and has meetings planned to discuss the issue in the next couple of weeks.
He said he also hopes to hold a public meeting in McAdam where people can voice their concerns.
Vigilante actions 'irresponsible,' RCMP say
The New Brunswick RCMP posted a warning Thursday against anyone planning to take justice into their own hands.
In a news release issued on its website and Facebook page, the force didn't name McGillicuddy or refer to any incident on June 4, but said it wanted to address "current conversations and actions regarding so-called 'vigilante justice' in New Brunswick."
"We understand the frustrations being voiced in some of the communities we serve across New Brunswick," the RCMP said.
"Every crime that is committed has an effect on the victim and those around them, and it impacts our wider sense of safety. We know people in our communities want to feel safe, and want action.
"No one, however, can operate outside the law to address those that are believed to be breaking it."
Victims urged to tell police
Police work is complex, the RCMP said, and while the public might want a faster outcome, officers cannot circumvent their responsibilities under the law.
"Those who attempt to take matters into their own hands outside the legal process put themselves, and their communities, at risk.
"Anyone involved in vigilante activities risk facing arrest and legal proceedings themselves. Taking police matters into your own hands, or condoning those who do, is irresponsible and reckless."
Anyone who is a victim of crime should report it to police, the RCMP said.