Crime & Punishment

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Posts Tagged ‘Jordan MacWilliams

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.

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Leo Knight

@prmetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

November 23, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Despite charges stayed, more questions remain in Starlight Casino case

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The announcement yesterday by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) in BC outlining that second degree murder charges against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams were stayed and the accompanying explanation did little to clarify why charges were laid in the first instance. In fact, it speaks more to the incompetent investigation done by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). Or perhaps something more nefarious.

In the media release the CJB attached an 8 page document they called “Clear Statement.” Well, it was anything but.

In it, CJB says as a result of the charge being laid, Crown prosecutors conducted “exhaustive” interviews with police officers at the scene at the Starlight Casino on November 8, 2012 and this led them to the conclusion that this case did not meet the charge approval standard in the province.

Well, in the first instance, doesn’t this really say that the investigation conducted by the IIO was sub-standard? Why wouldn’t they have surfaced this information during their interviews? Information such as the suspect’s finger was on the trigger when the gun in his hand moved to horizontal? Information such as there were other officers who had moved their fingers from the finger guard to their own triggers and would have also shot had MacWilliams not shot first?

These are no small matters. The information from the witnesses didn’t change. It’s more likely IIO investigators never asked the right questions. Why then, becomes the next question. Was it the incompetence of the investigators or perhaps, they were trying to come to the conclusion they wanted no matter the truth? Either is a possibility knowing what I know about the IIO.

Whatever the answer to these questions it is very clear that the CJB should not have approved the charge in the first place. None of the circumstances changed, nor has the standard to be met for the charge approval system. It seems to me that for all the reasons outlined by the CJB in their “Clear Statement,” that is exactly why the charge never should have been laid.

The matter of what the officer perceived the threat to be when he made the decision to use lethal force is paramount to the charge. If other officers had the same perception of the threat as did MacWilliams, then clearly no charge should have been laid.

Another aspect in this that is badly explained by the CJB is the reaction time from threat perceived to shots fired. This is known as “perception, processing and action.” Police are trained to minimize the time between perception and action, but it still exists. In this case the time delay was .49 of a second. A blink of an eye. Yet somehow, this became a salient issue in the decision to charge MacWilliams.

Retired Vancouver Police homicide investigator Bob Cooper was incredulous as he read the document especially as it glossed over this aspect. He said via email yesterday, “Any Use of Force expert worth his salt knows this and would have pointed it out in his report because it explains the differences in the perceptions of not just PC Mac Williams but a number of his colleagues as well as opposed to what is seen in the video.”

There are many more questions than answers in this and one hopes the CJB would answer them. But they won’t. They cannot be held accountable for anything they do except by the minister responsible and I have never seen any minister tread that path. The IIO report to the Deputy Minister responsible for the CJB, so again, while there are many questions to be answered in this by the IIO, but that too, seems unlikely.

Charging this officer with murder in these circumstances was an incredible over reach by the IIO and the CJB. Yesterday they stepped back from that over reach and did the right thing. But, they never should have been in this position in the first place.

Jordan MacWilliams was elated yesterday when he got the news from his lawyer David Butcher. This nightmare is finally over for him and he can go back to the job he loves, protecting and serving the citizens. I hope though, for his sake, that his emotional self can recover from the stress and damage done to his psyche by being put through this gut-wrenching experience. Not the shooting. He has said that were he to do it all over, he would do the same thing. For him, the critical thing was that he and his colleagues were able to go home to their families that night.

I mean, of course, going through the experience of being charged for murder when all he did was his job in trying and exigent circumstances. I truly wish him well. And I also truly hope that the CJB, the government, the IIO and the public of British Columbia has learned much from this sordid chapter in our province’s history.

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Leo Knight
@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

July 15, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Murder charge against police officer outrageous

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The mystery deepens the more one learns in the bizarre case of Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams, who has been charged with murder in the second degree for doing his job in a shots fired / hostage taking incident at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster in November of 2012.

Peter Juk, the Crown prosecutor responsible for this outrageous debacle, is, I am told, an ambitious political sort with little trial experience. Yet he, together with the civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) Richard Rosenthal, have somehow contrived to have this fine young officer charged with murder.

Frankly, it’s outrageous.

Jordan MacWilliams appeared in court this week to face a charge of second degree murder. He is a third generation police officer. His wife is also a police officer. If I were a betting man, I would bet that at least one of his young kids will aspire to be a police officer. Yet, given what is happening to him, one might ask why.

The desire to serve is what drives police officers to do what they do. It is unique and ubiquitous in their ranks. And, simply put, that is just what Jordan MacWilliams was doing when he responded to a call, as a member of MIERT (Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team) on that fateful day when he shot a man who had fired three times at a female employee of the Starlight Casino and then dragged her at gunpoint more than 500 metres up the parking lot.

When MacWilliams arrived on scene in response to that call, he knew it was a difficult and dangerous situation. The man had a gun. He had fired it three times at the women he now had taken hostage.

As he took up his position to contain the armed man, by chance, the hostage managed to create some separation between herself and her captor.

MacWilliams and another member of MIERT saw the opportunity and moved between the hostage and the suspect. They deliberately placed themselves in harm’s way to rescue the hostage. Had MacWilliams intended to kill the suspect he could have easily shot him at that point. But he didn’t.

And why not?  Because he wanted everyone involved to get out of this alive.  That’s his nature as a cop. That he had to take the shot eventually that killed the suspect was regrettable but necessary when the suspect’s gun pointed in the direction of the Alpha Team (ARWEN operators) who were designated non-lethal in the attempt to arrest the suspect.

MacWilliams went home to his family that evening. So did the members of Alpha Team whose back was his responsibility.

Why he has been charged is anyone’s guess. I harbour no illusions about what Rosenthal is about. How he managed to get a member of the Crown prosecution service to go along is another question.

On Thursday at MacWilliams’ court appearance Global TV veteran crime reporter John Daly said that a document was given to MacWilliams’ lawyers outlining finally what it is that they think they can prove to justify a murder case. One of those lawyers, David Butcher erupted to the media as a result.

“We don’t accept it at all,” Butcher said.

“I think the public needs to be very concerned about the developments in this case because if it puts a chill on police protection, particularly in a world that’s become so dangerous, the public needs to be very, very concerned about the developments in this matter,” said the lawyer. And he is, of course, correct.

The fact is that the suspect’s gun was pointed at the Alpha team members when MacWilliams took the shot. Period. There should be nothing more to discuss. Suspect, shooter, kidnapper, hostage-taker, armed person threatening police got shot for his trouble. Done deal. End of. He was the author of his own misfortune.

Whatever Juk’s political ambitions may be, I sincerely doubt they will succeed with this nonsense. In point of fact, I rather suspect he may be doing fatal damage to those ambitions with this.

Equally, Rosenthal, who was hired by this government to lead the IIO would seem to be in serious jeopardy. He has fired or lost well more than a dozen investigators in the short time his agency has been in existence. And the dissension within is growing. He is facing accusations of mismanagement, micromanagement, weak leadership, cop-hating (especially RCMP) and more. There is little doubt he is trying to justify his existence.

It’s also interesting to note there have been three different IIO Directors overseeing this file since the incident happened. Great continuity.

In this case Rosenthal and Juk, by their actions, have declared war on every police officer in British Columbia just trying to do their job in the service of the public.

Frankly, in my view, both of them should be fired. The Premier should then publicly apologize to every police officer in BC for what is being done in the name of her government. And then she needs to rethink the configuration of the IIO and the adversarial nature of its function.

I don’t say that lightly. But that won’t happen any time soon.

Nothing is forthcoming. The silence, in fact, is deafening. And Jordan MacWilliams is still facing a murder charge for no other reason than he did his job.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

December 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm

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Delta Cop charged with murder appears in court

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Yesterday, Cst. Jordan MacWilliams appeared in New Westminster Supreme court to answer the charge of second degree murder laid inexplicably after he fired the fatal shot in a armed-hostage taking situation in November, 2012.

There is something political about this and why this charge has been laid against a good, young officer who did his job and did it well. I don’t yet know what it is, but, I will find out and I will ensure that is made known publicly.

Whether it is the political ambition of prosecutor Peter Juk or the political survival of IIO chief Richard Rosenthal, I don’t yet know. Equally, I don’t know why Attorney General Susan Anton is letting this pantomime play out on her watch. But I will find out.

Yesterday, the Crown provided MacWilliams’ defence team with a document outlining what it is they think they can prove to justify a charge of second degree murder against MacWilliams. It is a flight of fancy at best.

More to come in this.
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Leo Knight
@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

December 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm

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