Pubdate: Sun, 06 Mar 2005
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Page: Front Page
Copyright: 2005 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Rochfort Bridge)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Frustration With Justice System Surfaces in Mayerthorpe

MAYERTHORPE, Alta. - James Roszko lay in wait inside his Quonset hut for 
four Mounties he gunned down in a battle that ended with Roszko himself 
being wounded, RCMP said Saturday.

"Our officers, all four of them, were shot and killed by James Roszko," 
said regional Supt. Marty Cheliak, releasing results of post-mortem 

"None of our officers were struck by friendly fire. James Roszko was hit by 
return fire by our officers. Those strikes did not result in his death. 
James Roszko then took his own life."

Cheliak labelled the attack an "ambush" but wouldn't elaborate, except to 
say: "The investigation has shown that that's exactly what took place. 
That's why we're releasing that at this time."

He said Roszko managed to slip back into the Quonset hut while police were 
watching it in the hours prior to the Thursday-morning shooting, but 
investigators weren't sure how he did so.

Cheliak did not make it clear if one of the four officers shot Roszko or 
whether it was two additional officers who arrived minutes after the 
shooting and exchanged gunfire with Roszko.

Roszko, 46, was a convicted child molester, a community menace and a known 

It was common knowledge that he had weapons on his farm. An application to 
search the property for stolen goods and a marijuana operation indicated 
Mounties were well aware they were dealing with a volatile individual. The 
application by Cpl. James Martin expressed concern about officer safety.

Cheliak wouldn't speak directly to suggestions the four men - who were 
wearing soft body armour that couldn't withstand bursts from Roszko's 
semi-automatic, assault-style rifle - were sent into the situation 

He said they had a 12-gauge shotgun and a .308-calibre long-barrel rifle 
along with their 9-mm handguns.

He noted they were advised of the dangers, had a plan in place and worked 

"Officers at the scene were in regular contact with other officers and 
supervisors," he said.

RCMP also said the white pickup truck Roszko was last seen in prior to the 
shooting had been recovered, but wouldn't say where.

It was a day of rumours and tension at the crime scene. Cheliak said there 
was no evidence to back up reports that shots had been fired at the Roszko 
farm Saturday, that two people were taken into custody or that an officer 
had been wounded.

With media photographers nearby, police at one point stopped a man in a 
truck heading toward the farm and at least one officer pointed a rifle at 
him. Cheliak wouldn't discuss it.

His comments came as spiritual leaders in Mayerthorpe said grief over the 
slayings was turning into anger and frustration.

"There is anger in the community. Primarily it is directed at Mr. Roszko," 
said Pastor Arnold Lotholz.

Lotholz, who leads the town's Pentecostal congregation, said the anger is 
also directed against a justice system that "has let us down again."

Mayerthorpe Mayor Albert Schalm said he doesn't want anyone to target the 
Roszko family. "I hope no one will be lashing out." he said.

Mayor Trevor Thain of nearby Whitecourt, where one of the officers was 
stationed, said there has been a growing tribute of teddy bears, flowers 
and candles in front of the detachment. A local bank has set up a donation 
fund for Const. Anthony Gordon's children.

Pastor Wendell Wiebe of the Baptist Church in Mayerthorpe said he has been 
counselling high school students since the shooting.

"They were in shock," he said. "Maybe that's the case for the next little 
while. Then will come the emotions, the sorrow, the anger. That's when my 
life will get very busy."

One man who came to place flowers on the growing floral tribute in front of 
Mayerthorpe's one-storey brick RCMP detachment offered advice to the 
grieving community.

"You can be angry all you want, but it's not going to change what's 
happened," said Axel Axmann from nearby Edson, Alta.

Thoughts were also turning to funerals for Gordon, Leo Johnston, 32, Brock 
Myrol, 29, and Peter Schiemann, 25. Individual services were being planned 
for this week and a large memorial was being organized by the RCMP.

Johnston's family, who come from Lac la Biche, Alta., asked the media in a 
statement to focus on the lost officers and not the marijuana grow 
operations or the laws surrounding them.

Myrol's mother, however, demanded action.

"Prime Minister Paul Martin, we depend on you and we expect you to change 
the laws and give the courts real power," Colleen Myrol said outside her 
home in Red Deer, Alta. "Give the power back to the police."

A spokesman for Martin's office said the prime minister plans to visit 
Alberta this week.

As people looked for somewhere to lay blame, the search warrant indicated 
Roszko was a demonstrably violent man up to the day he died.

It shows Mayerthorpe Mounties were called at 3:20 p.m. Wednesday by a 
bailiff trying to seize a truck from Roszko. Martin and Schiemann drove to 
his farm near Rochfort Bridge, about 130 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

The bailiff told the officers a man had come out of a Quonset hut on the 
farm, shouted at him, and released two "Rottweiler-type" dogs before 
driving away in the pickup.

The bailiff and officers found "several brand-new trucks in pieces" in the 
Quonset shed along with evidence of a pot-growing operation.

The grow operation was investigated that night, but the stolen property 
case was left to Thursday morning.

Two officers stayed behind to guard the farm overnight. Two more arrived in 
the morning, just minutes before the shooting began. 
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