Pubdate: Tue, 23 Oct 2007
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte


'We Can Make This Community Crime Free'

HAY RIVER, N.W.T. - Residents of the town where a Mountie was shot to 
death earlier this month packed their community hall to vent their 
frustration Monday night.

They called for a curfew, more RCMP officers and enhanced youth 
programs. But their greatest anger was reserved for drug dealers who 
have invaded the Northwest Territories community.

"We're going to hound them until they bloody well change or leave the 
community," former mayor Duncan McNeill said. "We can end up with 
this being a drug capital or we can make this community crime free."

On Oct. 6, RCMP Const. Christopher Worden, a five-year veteran RCMP 
officer and father of an eight-month-old daughter, was shot and 
killed in a Hay River neighbourhood notorious for drugs and late-night parties.

The man charged with his murder, 23-year-old Emrah Bulatci, was 
arrested in Edmonton a week later and is being held in Yellowknife 
awaiting trial.

Hay River Mayor John Pollard said most residents blame Worden's death 
on drugs in their community.

He called Monday's meeting to let community members bring questions, 
and for two hours a steady stream of residents took over the 
microphone to express their feelings.

The chief of a nearby reserve, Alec Sunrise, called for each person 
to keep their eyes open. "We want to join forces," he said. "When we 
see a strange vehicle, Alberta licence plates, we know the ones that 
aren't tourists."

The community is worth protecting, said Christopher Gall, a newcomer 
to town. "RCMP are doing it alone. God bless you guys and girls."

"You should be very proud of your police force," said Yvonne Miller, 
who moved recently from New Zealand. "I live right near (the 
neighbourhood of) Disneyland," she said. "I've seen and heard things 
that I have never seen in all my 37 years."

Hay River is a town of almost 4,000 people, with two sets of traffic 
lights and one highrise apartment building. It's the second-largest 
community in the Northwest Territories and a transportation hub. 
Everything from diesel fuel to dishwashers comes up from Edmonton by 
road or rail, stops in Hay River, then is shipped out on barges 
across Great Slave Lake and down the Mackenzie River to the diamond 
mines and small communities in the Far North.

The neighbourhood nicknamed Disneyland lies only a few blocks from 
the community hall, just north of downtown. A dozen single-storey 
square houses look like they could use a new paint job. Across the 
street, a few bunches of flowers sit frozen on a stump near the spot 
where Worden fell.

Worden was responding alone to a call for assistance around 5 a.m. on 
Oct. 6. He lost radio contact after telling the dispatch centre he 
was preparing to enter a home. RCMP eventually found his body across 
the street between an apartment building and garbage-filled row of 
bushes. His gun was by his side.

Bulatci's SUV was found in St. Albert the Monday after the shooting 
and he was arrested four days later after police surrounded a home in 
Edmonton's west end.

RCMP have said they can't release more information about what they 
believe happened until Bulatci appears in court.

Before Worden's funeral, residents covered the town in blue and black 
ribbons, which still hang from light posts and hand rails downtown. 
The town is soliciting ideas for a permanent memorial for the constable.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, and Worden's widow, 
Jodie, has promised to attend.

At the community meeting, some residents already had plans to help. 
Glenn Davies, a youth pastor at the local pentecostal church, said 
his youth group has already raised one-third of the money needed for 
a T-shirt campaign. Every third Friday should be YAAD T-shirt day, he 
said. It stands for Youth Action Against Drugs.

"Thirty people can make a difference," he said. "Three thousand 
people can move a mountain."

Others had questions for the authorities.

Why was Worden left to die alone for 45 minutes while the dispatcher 
in Yellowknife tried to raise him on the radio, said Ann Lobb, citing 
information from a man who listens to the police radio for a hobby.

Lobb said she worked for five years with the RCMP in Hay River when 
they had 16 people in the detachment. Now they have nine, with the 
overnight dispatcher in Yellowknife. "I just want to know why the 
RCMP didn't respond sooner."

Louise Schumann suggested a curfew. "Fine the parents if the kids are 
out," she said, and was drowned out by applause.

That's one thing the town does have responsibility for, Pollard said. 
"Is a curfew a good idea or a bad idea?"

The audience cheered loudly.

But Chris Powell got up later to say he's still processing the 
tragedy. "I'm hearing a lot of knee-jerk reaction, saying it's all 
the kids fault," he said. "Adults are involved as well."

"If I wanted to get crack in this town, I wouldn't go to a 
schoolyard, I'd go to a bar.

"I don't support a curfew."

When Pollard called the meeting closed, the people in the crowd 
picked up red or white roses and candles. Then the group walked 
slowly from the hall to the RCMP station.

They sang Amazing Grace, recited the Lord's Prayer, held a minute of 
silence, and then finished with O Canada.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman