Darkest day in modern history: Four Royal Canadian police officers killed (March 3, 2005)
|Mayerthorpe, Alberta - On March 3, 2005 a 46-year old suspect described by his own father as a “wicked devil”, shot and killed four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers; Cst. Gordon, Cst. Johnston, Cst. Schiemann and Cst. Myrol at a small farming community called Mayerthorpe, near Edmonton, Alberta. Not since 1885 have so many police officers been killed in a single incident in Canada.
The incident started innocently enough on Wednesday March 2nd when two bailiffs attended the suspect Roszko’s farm in an attempt to seize his Ford F350 pick-up. Roszko had been involved in a dispute with an Edmonton car dealership about repairing a damaged tailgate and stopped making payments. Roszko quickly became aggressive and belligerent and fearing for their safety the bailiffs fled and called the RCMP to stand by and “keep the peace”. Local RCMP members were familiar with Roszko’s reputation as a reclusive troublemaker and self-proclaimed hater of the RCMP.
Upon RCMP arrival Roszko was nowhere to be found and according to witnesses had apparently fled in a white pick-up truck. Patrols were made to search for his truck and a BOLF “Be On The Look Out For” bulletin was broadcast.
With the RCMP present the bailiffs cut the locks to a large Quonset (metal shed) to recover the F350. However, upon entering they found a chop-shop and marijuana grow-op consisting of 280 plants. Additional officers and resources were called in to assist with the investigation. Search warrants were obtained and the property and buildings were searched until 4 am.
Cst. Gordon and Cst. Johnston were assigned to guard the scene overnight. The next morning Cst. Schiemann and Cst. Myrol arrived and just prior to 10:00 am all four entered the Quonset. Shortly after entering, shots were heard inside by other officers on the scene.
Cst. Vigor was closest and rushed to the Quonset with his gun drawn. He saw the suspect exit holding a rifle in his hands and upon seeing Cst. Vigor the suspect opened fire, narrowly missing him. A brief gun battle took place and it is believed the suspect was hit at least 4 times by Cst. Vigor before retreating back into the Quonset. A second officer used his patrol vehicle to cover Cst. Vigor and they both contained the Quonset and called for back up. Due to lighting and positioning, the officers were not able to see inside. Efforts to communicate with the officers or suspect inside were met with no response. Based on the level of gunfire and the unknown status of the officers inside the Quonset, it was decided to wait for reinforcements before entering.
Additional officers from other detachments, including ERT, as well as at least 20 military personnel and three APC’s (Armoured Personnel Carriers) including an armoured ambulance arrived on the scene. With significant firepower and protective gear in place, a decision was made to enter the premise. At about 2:00 pm, members from the Explosive Disposal Unit deployed their Remote Mechanical Investigator - a robot, to enter and assess the inside of the Quonset. Officers tragically discovered a sight that nobody should have to see but all of us in law enforcement know can happen. The bodies of the officers were found on the floor along side the suspect Roszko. Roszko was dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The investigation is on-going and as details are released it is obvious that it was a senseless cold-blooded ambush by a gun toting, police hating, social misfit, who loved weapons as well as his ability to terrify those around him. How or when Roszko arrived back on the property may never be known.
We hope that the RCMP and families and friends of these officers will take solace in the fact that all of us in the law enforcement field and indeed Canada, feel their pain and offer whatever support we can to help them through this tragedy. We will remember that these officers, who died, did so to make Canada a safer place for all and to “maintiens le droit“ (maintain the right), the motto of the RCMP.
by Cst. Tod Catchpole
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