Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Murder charge against cop makes no sense

with 32 comments

In the wake of the madness in Ottawa, the words heroes and courage were being much bandied about. And as they should. We have all seen the video shot by the Globe & Mail reporter showing police officers with weapons drawn moving toward the sound of gunfire and then dozens of rounds being fired leaving Parliament’s attacker dead.

It is part of the job for police to move to danger while the rest of humanity instinctively moves away from it. On the face of that alone, courage is needed.

Two days before, a Delta police officer, Const. Jordan MacWilliams, was charged with 2nd degree murder resulting from an incident on Nov. 8th, 2012 at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster.

The charge is chilling.

MacWilliams at the time, was a member of the Integrated Municipal Emergency Response Team. They had been called to the casino after shots were fired and an agitated man was holding a woman hostage.

Police contained the scene and isolated 48-yr.-old Mehrdad Bayrami who was waving around a pistol. As the five-hour stand-off dragged on, police tried numerous things to bring an end to it, including negotiators and deploying a robot equipped with a phone in an attempt to start a dialogue.

A decision was made to try a non-lethal approach to arrest Bayrami using a ‘flash bang’ and Arwen guns, which fire large plastic projectiles. MacWilliams was designated “lethal” and positioned using an armoured police vehicle for cover. His job was to take the shot if the non-lethal approach went bad and the exposed officers were in jeopardy. This is a typical tactical deployment.

The flash bang went off and Bayrami jumped back, pistol in hand. At least one, if not both Arwen rounds missed the intended target and MacWilliams fired one shot hitting Bayrami who died nearly two weeks later in hospital.

It’s hard to see from that set of facts how this results in the incredibly rare charge of murder laid against a police officer doing his or her duty. I have only heard of two prior to this, both in Toronto.

Police are authorized in using lethal force if they perceive their life, or the life of another is in peril. In this instance MacWilliams was in the catbird seat in the turret and designated ‘lethal.’ What is critical is what was his perception of the danger faced. And we don’t know that because in the adversarial system created by the Independent Investigations Office, MacWilliams as the designated “subject officer,” declined to make a statement. Which, I might add, is his right and not atypical.

With this charge a chill has descended on all police officers, but most especially those on ERT squads. What might happen then, the next time they are in the catbird seat and designated lethal? If they hesitate because of this, a police officer might die needlessly.

There’s no doubt the IIO needed to get one “on the board” to justify their existence politically. Especially, given there is a Legislative Committee reviewing its efficacy currently and two separate probes that could prove embarrassing to the organization.

One probe is being conducted by a labour lawyer over concerns raised by a former investigator about the culture in the organization under the leadership of Richard Rosenthal. Allegations which were reported on extensively in The Province by Sam Cooper.

The other is an independent review, ironically first suggested by Cooper in a question to Rosenthal, to which he replied he would not do. That review, which Rosenthal ultimately did order under his authority in the Police Act, is reviewing the IIO’s first case, the shooting death of Greg Matters in Prince George in September 2012.

There have been allegations by a senior investigator about Rosenthal – of interference, mishandling of exhibits and altering the primary investigator’s report.

The problem with this review is that the reviewer’s report will be submitted to Rosenthal and he’s under no obligation to make it public. Which, of course, makes no sense whatsoever. How can an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct report back to the very person against whom the allegations were made?

The other curious detail about this case is that the Crown has opted to proceed against MacWilliams by direct indictment, a rare legal move. Proceeding by direct indictment is a tool used by the Crown, typically, for very complex cases. It was used, for example, in the prosecution of Jamie Bacon.

Direct Indictment eliminates the stage of the criminal process known as a preliminary hearing which, by design, tests the evidence against an accused and allows a Provincial Court Judge the opportunity to dismiss a case for a lack of, or insufficient, evidence to proceed with a full-blown trial. Why this police officer would be denied that process given the circumstances is puzzling indeed?

Neil MacKenzie, the Communication Counsel for the Criminal Justice Branch, issued a press release and then declined to offer any details on this incredibly rare case claiming it would not “be appropriate for CJB to release additional information or comment further at this time.”

A young police officer, with a young family, who made a judgement call in a high-stress circumstance and did what he felt was his duty is charged with second degree murder and neither he nor the public – nor frankly his colleagues still on the front lines – are entitled to know why?

On the day the charge was announced, Delta Chief Jim Cessford held a press conference on the steps of police headquarters. While in progress, many of the civilian staff saw what was going on and stood out on the steps to show support for MacWilliams.

That speaks volumes. Apparently in Ottawa you can be a hero for doing your duty but in British Columbia, doing your duty can get you charged with murder.

-30-

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Written by Leo Knight

November 6, 2014 at 2:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

32 Responses

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  1. You’re right makes no sense at all. So what needs to be done to get the charges dropped. Very sad

    Lynda Gerhardt

    November 6, 2014 at 3:44 pm

  2. Reblogged this on 24×7 blog with Cst. Jim Ingram and commented:
    Fantastic blog post from Leo Knight

    Cst. Jim Ingram

    November 6, 2014 at 5:37 pm

  3. Wow…eye opening. Thank you for the clarity.

    Karen Kelt

    November 6, 2014 at 6:00 pm

  4. This needs to be seen by so many! It’s an absolute travesty that this is happening to this officer and his family.

    Sydney Bradford

    November 6, 2014 at 6:43 pm

  5. I can’t believe this has gone so far. It’s so hurtful to Cst. MacWilliams and every Officer in Canada. I hope there is someone working very hard to bring this to the attention of someone in high authority. Thank you DPD!

    Cheryl Martyn

    November 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm

  6. why would anyone want to be a peace officer? Watching out for the public and doing what you’ve been trained to do gets you in deep, deep trouble. I feel so sad for Cst. MacWilliams and the rest of this country since police officers are punished for doing their jobs.

    Carol Chan

    November 7, 2014 at 12:23 am

  7. This begs the question, will police officers continue to run towards gunfire? They are courageous, they can suppress the fear of getting into a violent conflict, but can they suppress the fear of going to jail for doing what they think is right? Charged with murder while doing your duty? completely absurd. It appears they are sworn to protect a society that no longer protects them.

    Ryan

    November 7, 2014 at 1:13 am

  8. Solution: Every officer in BC walks off the job in protest. Charge them, fine them do what ever but where will the province sit when there is not one officer on duty. Unite and you would be surprised what you can accomplish.

    Paul Sparrow (@LaxBird)

    November 7, 2014 at 1:18 am

    • If, as you suggest, the police take action or strike, doesn’t that show that they have no faith in the system that they themselves are part of? What does that say to Canadians? Nothing is truly proven until tested, including those who enforce our laws.

      Kenn Kirby

      November 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    • I agree, let everyone fend for themselves, see how long it is before you have people begging for the police to come back to work!!

      todd

      November 10, 2014 at 12:21 am

  9. A very good article! I wish this could be more available to the lay person that only sees the headlines “police officer charger with second degree murder”. So that the public information is not one sided and everyone can know both sides to this circumstance before they judge. Thank you for writing about this.
    Natasha,
    Wife of Police Officer

    Natasha Usipiuk

    November 7, 2014 at 2:21 am

  10. Well written and on point. As others have already pointed out, “Why would anyone want to be a police officer?”. We need to stand behind our police force and support them in their roles.

    Kenneth McLennan

    November 7, 2014 at 2:32 am

  11. Here is a thought… while I personally TOTALLY disagree with charges being laid.. I have heard from a very reliable high-ranking source that if everything was done ‘well’.. it is better that a 3rd party and indepenent entity (i.e the courts) clears the name of an officer.. it removes any doubt that the police ‘investigate themselves etc etc’ that the lefties always whine about. It’s a terrible ordeal for the officer involed.. but if/when he is cleared in court (acquitted).. no one can challenge the outcome. I really hope this is the strategy being employed by Crown and the investigators alleging 2nd degree murder. if not? I need to hang up my uniform and badge now… because this country has gone insane…

    Magnum

    November 7, 2014 at 5:04 am

    • Agreed, but what of the damage done to his reputation and family during the time before he’s “cleared”?

      Nick

      November 7, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      • Magnum, your point isn’t without merit but the correct (and much better) forum for this is a Coroner’s Inquest which is mandatory in pretty much all deaths that occur in conjunction with police operations. Firstly, it’s not accusatory or adversarial. Secondly, the rules of evidence are more relaxed which leads to a more thorough examination and ensures that all of the facts come out. Thirdly, the family of the deceased is usually given standing and allowed to participate.

        Unless there is clear evidence (‘substantial liklihood of conviction’) of a crime, sending this policeman to court is a grave abuse of process.

        Bob

        November 14, 2014 at 8:04 pm

  12. Should be convicted of second degree murder.
    This guy had no right to murder someone.
    I hope he loses his job.

    David T

    November 7, 2014 at 6:25 am

    • David T…what a goof to make a statement like that without knowing any of the details, yet quick to make judgenment. Try to cover up the big “L” stamped on your forehead.

      Louis V.

      November 7, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    • OMG what a bird brain you are.David.

      Pat N

      November 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      • Well Mr. David T. the next time you are in a situation where somebody has a gun held to your head and the police are there to help you I am sure you will not be so quick to judge when they take out the person holding the gun to save your sorry life. I think maybe you need to get your priorities in check and show a lot more respect for the first responders that keep you safe every day and allow us to live the life we have. Shame on you. All I can say to you is Karma. She tends to sneak up on you when you are least expecting it.

        Kim

        November 7, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    • youre an idiot how would you feel if he was holding your mother or someone you loved hostage and had a gun to her head…. its people like you that police officers run to save when you need them.. perhaps you need to think about that….

      Maureen

      November 7, 2014 at 6:23 pm

  13. Cst MacWilliams needs the medal of honour for what he did. NOT to be charged with 2nd degree murder! just so crown can make a name for themselves. this is a mockery of the judicial system that is already a joke. as a retired police officer i’m only so glad im out of this profession where all the men/ women want to do is make a difference and to serve and protect. Thank you for writing this article it needed to be said. oh and one more point the IIO is suppose to be the organization holding police accountable for their actions… who then is holding the IIO accountable. i find it appauling that retired police officers are NOT allowed to apply for positions on the IIO- i understand police investigating police and the problems it can pose, however, how can people who have NO idea what police do and have NO investigation experience background investigate ANYTHING let alone the actions of police officers. Lets get MacWilliams out of this nightmare and show our support!! go to your local government rep and voice your opinion. HONOUR INTEGRITY COURAGE & TRUST!

    Maureen

    November 7, 2014 at 6:29 pm

  14. He should not be charged for doing his job . What is this country coming to?

    Betty Harker

    November 7, 2014 at 6:41 pm

  15. I wasn’t able to find any other news story where the details of the shooting were displayed. The other news agencies said the details weren’t released by the courts. Is there a link to somewhere that details the events that night?

    Chaster

    November 7, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    • No. I got the details from sources in order to try and understand why the Crown would lay such a charge.

      -Leo

      Leo Knight

      November 7, 2014 at 8:25 pm

  16. You know I spent 31 plus years on the job before retiring. What the hell is going on, shame on the assholes who charged that cop. Hide your face you should be ashamed of your self. Even if the officer is cleared he will never be the same. What the F—k is going on with this world?

    Terry Nunn

    November 8, 2014 at 1:48 am

  17. Wow this is disturbing. Only in BC? Afraid not. This man did what he was trained to do-protect life. The victim put himself in that position and threatened the lives of many. If this story is accurate, shame on the BC Crown’s office!

    Samir

    November 8, 2014 at 2:18 am

  18. who has the power here, the criminal or the police officer….obviously not the right one…when we were younger we respected the police…nowadays there is no respect…and I feel for the officers who put their life on line everyday of their lives…if you are holding a weapon or appear to have a weapon plus holding a hostage…then the police have no other alternative but to take it to the ultimate which is your injured/dead..hopefully the hostage and the officer are still alive…after all who was committing the crime…

    Debbie

    November 8, 2014 at 4:10 am

  19. To what I have read this case should not have even have made it to the news. It should have only been handled by the police investigations dept., police chief, crown attorney and key officers at the scene. It is my opinion that cst. MacWilliams was placed in the position “catbird seat” at which gave him the right to make a decision as to what action to be taken. it is not my place or anyone else’s place except for those who were at the scene to make a legal decision as to place charges against the officer. However, my second opinion is that there was an innocent person and other officers being threatened by a gun waving idiot and the only coarse of action that could have been taken was taken and legally so. I hope that ALL charges against MacWilliams are dropped.

    Bill W.

    November 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm

  20. This is totally reprehensible. It has nothing more than the appearance of the Independent Investigations office looking for a notch in their belt to justify their existence. It shames me that the mistreatment of this young officer who was simply doing his job will go on for nothing more than a political move by an office that is not being fair and independent.

    John Taylor

    November 8, 2014 at 6:51 pm

  21. Thank You for sharing this .. Cst, MacWilliams did the right thing .. the suspect had an armed gun and a hostage, he could’ve killed not just her but more innocent people. Kudos to the police officer for protecting everyone else. WHY would he get charged?? He was doing his job!!!!!

    Lena

    November 10, 2014 at 11:57 pm

  22. What a travesty!! Society in general in becoming a joke. The political correct bleeding hearts have the audacity to charge this man for doing his job and protecting the public? What is this world coming to? I fear that one day we will have police officers and firefighters second guessing themselves in fear of some bogus charge being laid against them. God bless our first responders and let’s hope the mess with this police officer will be quickly resolved.

    Jim

    December 22, 2014 at 5:08 pm


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