Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Posts Tagged ‘hostage

The irony of the IIO

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“Don’t underestimate the value of irony—it is extremely valuable.”
Henry James

The irony is delicious.

Following the November 2012 fatal shooting of an armed hostage taker who had fired shots at the Starlight Casino by Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams, part of the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT), was charged with murder by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) following the incredibly flawed investigation by the then-fledgeling Independent Investigations Office (IIO).

How flawed? Beyond belief. They never even interviewed the female hostage who was shot at, dragged and had a gun held to her head in the incident. They never asked for the video from the casino security staff itself who had the whole incident recorded. Casino security staff, who watched events unfold live on monitors and called 9-1-1, burned a DVD for the New West police who asked for and received it. They burned a copy for the Coroner’s office who asked for and received it. They burned a copy for the IIO who never asked for it. Stunning.

MacWilliams as one of the first officers for the MIERT who responded to the shots fired/ hostage taking call at the casino. The perpetrator had been waiting for a female casino employee to arrive for work and fired three shots at her before dragging her from her car and about 500 metres down the sidewalk toward the entrance when New Westminster PD units arriving to the 9-1-1 call from casino security boxed him in in the parking lot. The call to the MIERT went out.

Less than an hour into the stand-off, MacWilliams and another officer noticed the female hostage managed to separate herself from the armed man and they immediately broke cover and put themselves between the hostage and the assailant with weapons drawn, exposing themselves to danger while a third officer ran out and pulled the woman to safety. The exposed officers withdrew to cover and the stand-off continued for several more hours. Had MacWilliams wanted to kill the man he had he opportunity then. He held fire and risked his own safety.

The negotiators tried and failed to end the situation and the incident commander decided to try a non-lethal assault using ARWEN guns with plastic bullets to try and disarm the man.

MacWilliams was designated lethal in that attempt. He was in the sniper seat to provide cover for the ALPHA team when they broke cover to take the shots. They did and the suspect turned toward them with gun raised and MacWilliams did his job. He took the shot, protected his colleagues and took down the armed man.

As MacWilliams said to me after the event, “All my guys got to go home that night, we did our job.” And he is exactly right.

Had the IIO bothered to do their job were they actually competent, they would have interviewed the hostage who had information relevant to the hostage-taker. She would have told them, as she later told me, that the man had said to her when he had a gun to her head that the only way he was leaving the scene was in a body bag. In her mind that meant he was going to commit suicide at his own hand or force the police to shoot him.

You’d almost think that was important info that would corroborate the 22 page statement given by MacWilliams in describing the events of the day. Almost.

Instead they went through an elaborate charade trying to merge three video clips to suggest that MacWilliams fired before he should have and that resulted in him being charged with murder.

Insanity!

MacWilliams went for many months with a murder charge hanging over his head. The stress of the situation affected his life, his family’s life, his colleagues and police officers around the province who worried what might happen if they double-clutched if they were in a similar situation.

I wrote much on the situation exposing the charge for the sham it was. Fortunately, the murder charge was eventually stayed in a rare moment of clarity from the Criminal Justice Branch and MacWilliams was allowed to return to his job serving the citizens of Delta, BC.

Apart from the ridicule I heaped upon the IIO in this, they never suffered any consequences. They still exist and their incompetence is exacerbated with nearly every investigation they do. The police have no confidence in them and nor should the general public.

And even though the Solicitor General, in a rare moment of clarity and common sense, pushed the first Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal out the door early, the stupidity remains.

They recently brought in some experienced, retired police officers to help out with their procedures and training. That was good. But in at least one of those cases they are only having the instructor train new hires in proper major crime investigation techniques. Why not existing investigators so that everyone has the same level of training and information? That’s just plain stupid.

They have hired a new Chief Civilian Director who performed a similar role in Nova Scotia, albeit that model uses seconded, seasoned police investigators instead of the BC model which uses, well, inexperienced civilians with little or no expertise. Indeed, the new CCD, the rather unfortunately named Ronald McDonald, faces a huge challenge to bring credibility to this organization which has become the subject of derision in the policing community.

First indications are not good.

But, in a delicious twist of irony, earlier this week, Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams was summoned to Victoria and, at Government House, was presented with the Award of Valour for his actions on that day at the Starlight Casino.

Well done Constable. The IIO and the CJB should be ashamed for putting him and his family through the stress of a murder charge hanging over his head for all that time just for doing his job.  And the heads of those responsible should roll.

But I won’t hold my breath.

-30-

Leo Knight

@prmetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

November 23, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Murder charge against cop a travesty of justice

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Since I started looking at the circumstances surrounding the murder charge laid against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams the biggest question that remains unanswered is why.

Last week in a discussion with me on Global’s Unfiltered with Jill Krop, former Crown Counsel Sandy Garossino tried to explain the charge approval process as it is practiced in BC. In a nutshell, she explained that for a charge to be approved it must have a “substantial likelihood of conviction” and “be in the public interest.”

If a police officer abuses their authority then certainly it would be in the public interest to charge them. But in this case, MacWilliams was on a tactical call out with the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response team to a shots fired, hostage taking call.

After MacWilliams and two colleagues heroically affected the rescue of the hostage, a then employee of the casino who was arriving for work, a stand off ensued which lasted five hours. All the while Mehrdad Bayrami, 48, was waving a pistol he had already fired three times. In fact, he ejected the clip late in the incident, leaving one round in the spout and pointed at one of the ERT officers held up one finger and said, “I only need one.”

So, with the means and the stated aim, the police tried to arrest and disarm the suspect using a tactical, non-lethal approach using a flash bang and an ARWEN gun. As the “non-lethal” officers broke cover, they were covered by MacWilliams, designated in a ‘lethal’ sniper position covered by an armoured police vehicle.

When the flash bang went off and the ARWEN rounds missed, the suspect leapt back and the weapon moves toward the ARWEN operator. It’s at this point MacWilliams fired one shot which felled the armed suspect.

It’s impossible to see from that set of facts how any Crown Counsel could possibly perceive there’s a substantial likelihood of conviction. The Criminal Code gives the police the authority to use force in a number of circumstances but it holds police accountable for that use of force if it is deemed to be excessive. The suspect had a loaded weapon. He had fired three shots from that weapon on that day. He threatened police when he held up one finger and said what he did. He then moved the weapon towards the ARWEN operator. What could possibly be deemed excessive or unlawful in this?

Nor does it seem to be in the public interest to prosecute a police officer doing his duty to protect the public.

I should add that MacWilliams submitted a written statement to Crown late last Spring outlining what happened and why he pulled the trigger. His counsel even offered to address any and all questions the Independent Investigations Office might have. The IIO declined that offer.

So, this seems to tell us that there is not the same standard used by the Crown when it comes to prosecuting those we employ to protect the rest of us.

Why would that be?

Most likely it has everything to do with the 1998 death from exposure of Frank Joseph Paul, who was left intoxicated in an alley by a young VPD constable who didn’t know what else to do with him after Detox and the police jail sergeant both refused to take him.

That case culminated in Commission of Inquiry headed by William H. Davies, QC between 2009 and 2011 when he issued his final report.

In that Inquiry Davies looked at the allegations of conflict of interest against Crown levelled by the usual crowd of hand-wringers. He found there was no evidence of any conflict but wrote that when the possibility of a conflict was present, the case should be given to a lawyer in private practice to review or a prosecutor from another province.

That wasn’t done in this case.

Interestingly enough though, in that inquiry, then Director of Legal Services for the Criminal Justice Branch, Gregory Fitch, testified that while charges were considered he decided not to lay charges because “there wasn’t a substantial likelihood of conviction.”

So, what’s changed? Has the Crown suddenly decided that the rule of law and stated policy no longer applies for police?

We ask the police to do a job most of the population wouldn’t want to do. They see things you wouldn’t want to see. They deal with people with whom you would not want to come into contact. And we ask them to deliberately put themselves in harm’s way. And, if that’s not enough, we demand they be unfailingly polite no matter the abuse and invective that’s hurled at them.

Despite all of that, young men and women willingly take on that challenge. They know their actions will be reviewed and that in their lives, on and off duty, they are held to a higher standard than you are. So, how is it possible that when a decision to charge an officer engaged in the execution of his duty, and courageously I might add, a lower standard is applied by Crown?

This appears to be little more than a charade performed by those lacking in testicular fortitude who are afraid of the perpetually unfounded criticisms of the likes of the Pivot Legal Society or the BC Civil Liberties Association.

Bayrami made his choices that fateful day when he armed himself with a pistol, fired it at a woman he later took hostage and threatened police. MacWilliams made the choice that all members of his team would go home safely to their families that day. To be facing a charge of murder as a result is an absolute travesty of justice. For the Crown to proceed by direct indictment thereby not allowing the defence team to test evidence led at a Preliminary Hearing only exacerbates that travesty.

As one experienced homicide investigator said when we spoke about this case, “It’s like a Chinese Show Trial.”

Indeed it is.

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

November 23, 2014 at 4:05 am

Posted in Crime & Punishment

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