This is part of my ongoing series on Canadian Mass Murders.
On March 3, 2005, a violent man with a long criminal history and a lifetime firearms prohibition order against him used an illegal gun to murder four RCMP constables in Mayerthorpe, Alberta.
- Anthony Fitzgerald Orion Gordon
- Lionide Nicholas Johnston
- Brock Warren Myrol
- Peter Christopher Schiemann
Firearm Prohibition Order Failure
The Mayerthorpe Fallen Four aren’t dead because they ignored RCMP policy or procedure. They’re dead because our government refuses to track dangerous violent offenders with Firearm Prohibition Orders.
Roszko maintained a large marijuana grow-op inside the Quonset and the trailer. He also ran a “chop shop” for stolen vehicles in it. These were both long-running criminal enterprises police were totally unaware of. Had legislation existed at the time allowing police to check on dangerous offender like James Roszko, these four RCMP members would probably still be alive today.
We cannot continue to ignore the most violent offenders in our nation. This is a public safety threat no political party or government is willing to address.
How many more RCMP members must die until this changes?
The Fatality Inquiry
The fatality report (view PDF) resulting from the inquiry into the deaths of Mayerthorpe’s Fallen Four shows Cpl. James Martin, the senior officer on the case, knew of James Roszko’s criminal record, his firearms prohibition order and his violent background.
Despite this, Cpl. Martin decided not to activate an ERT team yet, even though “we were probably going to need ERT to assist us in executing his arrest warrants.”
An ERT is often activated to deal with suspects known or believed to be armed. Those criteria did not yet exist at the time this decision was made. That changed shortly after the search began.
Police discovered .308 and 9mm ammunition, proving Roszko was in breach of his firearms prohibition order, although no guns were found with the ammunition.
By 3am on March 3rd, Cpl. Martin and Sgt. Pinder, the two senior officers on scene, knew the following (see page 7):
They knew Roszko had fled about 12 hours earlier and had not been seen since. They knew Roszko had a history of violence. They knew Roszko was somewhat strange, given the spike belt incident and the other anecdotal information they had heard from detachment staff.
They knew ammunition had been found and that this implied a substantial risk that Roszko could possess firearms notwithstanding his prohibition from doing so. They had alerted all members to look out for firearms on the property but to this point none had been located.
They understood there was a potential for Roszko to return while, at least, Cst. Johnston and Cst. Gordon were there. That said, they also knew from long experience that individuals fleeing a police presence do not typically return to the scene.
No one was aware of any circumstance where an individual had fled the police only to return with the intent to do serious harm.
Unknown to Constable Johnston and Constable Gordon, the two RCMP members remaining on site to secure the location until other investigators returned, “at some point between approximately 3:30 to 4:00 am and 10:00 am on March 3, 2005, Roszko gained access to the Quonset.”
He remained undetected until approximately 10:00 am, when he used a Heckler & Koch .308 semi-automatic rifle to shoot and kill Constables Gordon, Johnston, Myrol and Schiemann right after they entered the Quonset.
The medical evidence is incontrovertible that none of the victims would have survived their grievous injuries. All would have been unconscious within seconds and no one would have survived for more than a minute.
Roszko “casually” walked out the front of the Quonset hut with a handgun in his belt, a hunting rifle slung across his back and the Heckler & Koch .308 rifle in his hands. At this point he apparently thought he killed all RCMP officers on scene, a belief supported by the inquiry’s report.
Then he saw Constable Stephen Vigor.
“He appeared to have a surprised look on his face. I don’t think he expected to see another police officer or another person there,” Vigor told the inquest.
Roszko fired at Vigor, who escaped injury and returned fire, hitting Roszko twice, once in the left hand and once in the right thigh, fracturing his femur.
“This fact bears directly on all that follows because we now know that the incident was effectively over [at this point],” the report said.
Roszko committed suicide almost immediately after staggering back inside the Quonset.
How many more RCMP members must die until this changes?
If you, like me, want to see violent criminal offenders tracked, please write to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and demand they introduce legislation to prevent more tragedies like this.
The Honourable Bill Blair
Minister of Public Safety
House of Commons
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0A6
Email the Minister of Public Safety
The Honourable David Lametti
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
Email the Minister of Justice
If you want to help preserve the memory of these four constables, please consider a donation to Fallen Four Memorial Park, created to honour the ultimate sacrifice made by Cst. Anthony Fitzgerald Orion Gordon, Cst. Lionide Nicholas Johnston, Cst. Brock Warren Myrol and Cst. Peter Christopher Schiemann.
Prohibition Orders do not work. And depending on the definition of “tracking”, “tracking” likely would not work either. I have a PAL and am supposedly “tracked” in the way that some have called for the tracking of criminals. My PAL and the “tracking” that goes with it certainly would not stop me from doing harm if I chose to. An effective “tracking” method would be 24/7 chaperoning by a police officer or two. But as a taxpayer I certainly do not agree with such a measure.
Keep violent offenders locked up in prison until a panel of judges is willing to put their careers and everything they own on the line to say that that person is ready for release into society and trusted to be free (yes with such conditions I imagine every offender would do their full sentence as no parole board would risk it).
Once early parole is nearly eliminated, move the onus onto sentencing judges. If a judge gives less than the maximum prison term written into the law for a violent crime, they become liable if that person reoffends when let out (let’s say just within the period that the max sentence would have covered). Similar to the parole boards, judges would likely not risk giving less than the maximum very often.
Once sentencing becomes giving the max as per the act/law most of the time, move the onus onto politicians to amend laws with appropriate maximum sentences for violent crimes until a balance is reached where recidivism becomes a statistical anomaly.
(and as always, let the would-be victims be armed to end the violent criminal to avoid all of the above in the first place)
Richard Frey says
That would mean supporting existing Laws to the Limit……Jails/Prisons would be overflowing, requiring more Jails/Prisons……..Taxes would be raised or Elected officials Pay reduced and Government Downsized …….What a terrible thought????
I agree with Joe, for most of his post, but feel we need to be more forceful with regard to his final sentence!
If we are truly a free society (we’re not) we should be able to carry a firearm for not only personal and close family member self defense, but also to assist police in times of emergency, as well as being willing to stand up toward miscreants that prey on our society as well.! Before everyone gasps at the thought of this, I, as a law abiding firearms owner, would be willing to pay for any mandated training, background checks, lie detection tests, In fact any mutually agreed upon testing that will confirm I am not a threat to myself or the society I live within and try to support. Of course the people on the fuzzy left, that could not trust themselves to own firearms, (due I suspect, to the fact they know they themselves CANNOT control their emotions.) They would never trust any citizen to carry a firearm in a responsible manner. Yet they trust the RCMP with that same ability even with the mediocre firearms training the rank and file does get. Of course, it doesn’t have to make sense, it’s the government! Yeah, well look where that has gotten us.