Archive for April 2015
When statements made by the female hostage in the November, 2012 hostage taking / standoff at the Starlight Casino first appeared in this space on Sunday, much attention followed. What Tetiana Piltsina said in support of Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams is important. And fair enough. He deserves support from the woman whose life he and two other officers saved.
But lost within the media coverage is a stunning admission by Kellie Kirkpatrick, spokesperson for the Independent Investigations Office (IIO).
When asked by Province reporter Dan Fumano whether the IIO had interviewed the female hostage at the centre of things on that fateful day, she provided this: “Our focus is on the actions of the police officers, not of the affected people, who in this case is Mr. Bayrami,” Kilpatrick said. She added that while the matter was before the court she was “not able to provide a comment specifically on what investigative steps were taken.”
Without saying so, she admitted that it doesn’t matter what happened before police took lethal action, it only matters what police did.
So, according to Richard Rosenthal, the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO, context doesn’t matter. Events that lead up to an officer-involved shooting don’t matter? Whatever contributed to the taking of a life is incidental?
What is this, Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour?
Bob Cooper, a former Sergeant in Vancouver Police Department’s Homicide Squad and who retired as an acting Inspector in Internal Affairs, was exceptionally critical of the IIO’s lack of competence in this matter. (Read his piece here)
Cooper refers to inexperience, poor leadership, short-staffing and bad morale as contributing factors to shoddy investigation practices. All of which is true. But, with all due respect to Cooper, I suspect it has more to do with Rosenthal’s philosophical view on what his role is.
Rosenthal is an American lawyer. He worked for a while as an assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles. It was when he was there that the LAPD Internal investigators began unravelling what would become known as the Rampart scandal. Rosenthal portrays himself as the slayer of cop corruption using his involvement in that particular affair. He even has a mug shot of the only person convicted of anything in that, Rafael Perez, on his wall at his IIO office.
Well, here’s the reality. Perez was a corrupt cop. LAPD determined this without any help from Rosenthal. When investigators confronted him, Perez, like all criminal rats, tried to help himself by fingering others. Rosenthal was assigned to take a statement in which Perez made a whole lot of fabricated allegations against other Rampart officers. It was all bullshit but Rosenthal swallowed it all, hook, line and sinker.
All the officers fingered by Perez were either not charged, charged and later not convicted or convicted and overturned on appeal. Perez is the only person left standing when the music stopped in the Rampart affair. The widespread corruption existed only in the fabrication of a bad cop whose nuts were in a vice .
That’s Rosenthal’s claim to fame.
And so he is now on our doorstep, hired in part under the authority of Deputy Attorney General Richard Fyfe, the same person who, coincidently, signed the Direct Indictment of Cst. Jordan MacWilliams. Not to suggest any ulterior motives, but one does wonder.
He was part of the process to hire an American with no knowledge of Canadian law to oversee the investigation of the actions of police officers involved in serious injury or fatal events.
So, I’m sure due diligence was done and determined that Rosenthal actually knew about major case management in serious investigations right? Well, no, one suspects not actually.
Rosenthal has zero experience in major case investigation. In Portland, Oregon his job was, what the RCMP would call a ‘reader.’ He read reports for quality control and flagged potential ‘issues.’
In Denver, he oversaw a staff of four. And that ended in complaints and lawsuits. He has never in his life been responsible for a staff of 50 as he is now and has been the subject of so many complaints and problems that his staff is turning over faster than a flapjack.
As a leader he is, well, he just isn’t. As an investigator, well, he isn’t that either.
So, what is he? Well, it seems clear he doesn’t like police. It also seems clear he believes his mandate is to prosecute cops. Where, from my perspective, I would think the mandate of a civilian oversight agency would be to find the truth. It’s an important distinction.
For a bit of delicious irony, when Rosenthal was the ‘Independent Police Monitor’ in Denver, he got into a pissing contest with Denver’s Manager of Safety, Alex Martinez. Rosenthal said in his report examining Denver’s Internal Affairs Bureau, they had a bias because they didn’t ask the right questions, did not interview the right people, and did not investigate quickly enough.
A good cop is charged with murder and Rosenthal’s so-called investigators haven’t spoken to casino security who called 9-1-1 that morning, were watching events unfold live and in real time on their CCTV monitors, let alone asked for a copy of their video footage. New West PD has a copy. As does the Coroner’s office. They haven’t spoken to the hostage at the centre of this whole thing to try and understand what actually happened. And who actually had information that speaks to the suspect’s state of mind.
Had they done that, they might have actually understood that the suspect in this movie knew he was going to die that day. He was the author of his own misfortune. That should be the end of this discussion. But it isn’t.
The end of this discussion will occur when the provincial government realizes what a mistake they have made and they send Rosenthal packing back from whence he came.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), who investigated the police shooting of 48-yr.-old Mehrdad Bayrami on Nov. 8th, 2012 at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster likely didn’t know that Bayrami knew he was going to die that day, whether by his own hand or ‘suicide by cop.’
Bayrami laid in wait for a woman who was employed at the Casino and when she arrived, he kidnapped her at gunpoint. She fought back and he fired his weapon three times grazing the woman twice, once in the head and once on her back. He then dragged her nearly 500 metres toward the highway at the casino entrance. There he was met by New Westminster police who were responding to a 9-1-1 call from casino security who had witnessed the whole event on CCTV.
NWPD contained the armed assailant who still held his female hostage and called for the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT). A five-hour stand-off ensued which only ended when Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams, a member of the MIERT, fired one shot.
MacWilliams was designated ‘lethal’ in his position as the covering sniper officer while the designated ‘non-lethal’ officers broke cover with ARWEN guns which fire so-called ‘plastic bullets.’ MacWilliams fired the lethal shot when Bayrami pointed his weapon at police. It all happened very fast in real time. And yet the IIO has charged this officer with second degree murder for doing his job.
But, in doing their investigation they didn’t know that Bayrami intended to die that fateful morning. Why not you might ask? Because they never interviewed the woman at the centre of all of this, the hostage.
Tetiana Piltsina, who at the time was a supervisor at the casino and the woman who was attacked, shot at and kidnapped by Bayrami told me in an extended interview what happened that morning from her viewpoint.
She also told me what he said to her as the police held him in containment. “When we were standing there close to the highway, he said to me, I am going to leave here in a plastic bag, I am not going to jail.”
Shortly thereafter, MacWilliams and two of his colleagues affected a rescue of Piltsina when she pushed away and created some separation between herself and Bayrami. MacWilliams and New Westminster Cst. Cliff Kusch instinctively and courageously broke cover and positioned themselves between Bayrami and Piltsina with their weapons pointed directly at Bayrami. Another officer, Cst. Mo Parry of Delta PD, spirited her to safety and MacWilliams and Kusch withdrew back to cover.
The stand-off continued for several more hours as the MIERT tried everything from negotiators to the non-lethal attempt to disarm Bayrami using the ARWEN guns. It still ended with the fatal shot fired by MacWilliams when Bayrami pointed his weapon at police.
The statement made by Bayrami to Piltsina is critical. It shows the state of mind of Bayrami and corroborates what MacWilliams said in his statement that he fired because the suspect pointed his weapon at police as the ARWEN operators fired their weapons – projectiles which missed by the way.
But the IIO never got that information because they never interviewed Piltsina. And Crown, who approved the charge of murder, never got the information either and for the same reason.
It’s stunning really. When she heard from friends that MacWilliams had been charged she was outraged. She went to Delta PD headquarters and spoke to a police officer at the front counter. She said, “I went to the Delta police to see how I could help. It’s not right that he was charged. He was just doing his job. The policeman was trying to defend me.”
She left her name and number with that officer who gave the info to Chief Jim Cessford. He called the head of the IIO, Richard Rosenthal, and suggested, politely I’m sure, that Rosenthal have one of his investigators contact the woman.
I asked if the IIO had called her. Apparently even after the Cessford call they did not. Said Piltsina, “I called them. I called them the day I went to Delta police. They promised that someone would be in touch with me but I haven’t heard from them.”
Had the IIO actually done their job, they would have discovered that Bayrami had been stalking Piltsina for three months. He was calling her upwards of 60 times a day. She told me about him installing a GPS locator on her car and how, one day, when she got into her car she found a knife on her seat.
The Richmond RCMP were investigating the file as criminal harassment and Bayrami had been arrested three times as a result, the last time he was held for five days and released just days prior to that fateful day in November.
Piltsina has been through hell since the stalking started. It didn’t end with Bayrami’s death. She is still trying to come to grips with everything and feels guilty that MacWilliams has been charged with murder after saving her life. “Just because of me that guy is charged with murder.”
“That young boy, he doesn’t deserve it all, that’s awful,” she said. “My whole family is for this policeman, it’s a joke what is happening to him.”
Awful indeed. Made worse because the IIO did an incompetent investigation. And that is on Rosenthal.