(This column was published in the North Shore News on June 6, 2001)

 

Cops in tough with gun play

By Leo Knight

ON a relatively quiet Friday night at 8:30 p.m., Hobbema, Alberta, Mounties began receiving calls of a man walking around the Samson Cree First Nations reserve with a shotgun.  

 

Patrols found 19-year-old Denny Greene holding a shotgun in the dwindling light. As they approached him with their pistols at their sides, they ordered him to drop the weapon.  

 

Greene, who family members say was despondent over the suicide of his sister buried the day before, responded by pointing the shotgun at the police officers. The RCMP members pointed their weapons at Greene and screamed at him to "Freeze" and "Drop the gun."  

 

He didn't. One officer fired two shots, hitting him in the waist, causing non-life threatening injuries.  

 

Police officers investigating the shooting took statements from witnesses and for all intents and purposes, it appeared to be a clean shot. But, as with most things these days when it involves the police using violence, what should be clear-cut seldom remains so for very long.  

 

Within days of the shooting, the victim's family began spouting nonsense trying to blame police for shooting Greene. They said, via their lawyer, that Greene had screamed at the officers holding their weapons on him, that his gun wasn't loaded; a fact confirmed by police after the shots were fired when they checked the weapon.  

 

Now, it should be noted that none of the witnesses or the police officers involved in the shooting heard Greene say anything as he pointed the shotgun at the Mounties. But why let facts cloud the matter when the issue can be obfuscated in political correctness. "Bad white cops shoot poor, distraught native" becomes the underlying message. Even if Greene had shouted those words, when a shotgun is pointed at police what reason in the world would they have to believe him? "Honest officer, it's not loaded." Boom. "Hah, fooled you."  

 

Frankly, when staring at the business end of a shotgun, it looks like it's the size of a 17th-century blunderbuss. With guns drawn, the RCMP gave Greene ample opportunity to drop the weapon before they fired. When he pointed a shotgun at a police officer, loaded or not, he authored his own misfortune.  

 

And that should be the end of that. It shouldn't matter that Greene is a native or that his sister had just been buried. While this may emote empathy, it cannot excuse his actions on that Friday night.  

 

Greene has been charged with two criminal offences relating to the incident. He will appear in court in Wetaskawin when he is released from hospital. But it's even money whether those charges get dropped after the family lawyers file their lawsuit against the Mounties. And that, should it happen, will be totally wrong.  

 

A police officer has a tough enough job to begin with, let alone to try and have the ability to read a suspect's mind as to whether his gun is loaded. Take that police officer and place him or her in the politically charged atmosphere of a reservation and nothing is cut and dried.  

 

Denny Greene is a tragic figure and I hope he can come to grips with whatever demons he is wrestling with. But, to expect the police to have acted in any way other than the way they did in this case, is just plain wrong.  

 

 

 

On May 29, federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan rammed her new Youth Criminal Justice Act through third reading. It will become the law of the land soon after the senate and the governor general rubber stamp it.  

 

The act, guided through Parliament as Bill C-7, replaces the old Young Offender's Act. While the YOA screamed for a rework, this new law only serves to further muddy the waters.  

 

The bill is written in such a manner as to provide an exception to almost every new innovation. The more cynical among us might suggest this was done as nothing more than a sop to the Bloc Quebecois who introduced more than 3,000 amendments the last time the bill appeared on the order paper.  

 

For those of you who were looking for something substantial in the new legislation, it's just not there. A young offender, no matter the reason, still cannot be identified. While the act deals with so-called "alternative measures" when an offender accepts responsibility, it still does not limit this to first time offenders. The door is still wide open to having violent, repeat offenders scoot through the system without facing any real consequences for their actions, no matter how many times they have been in the dock before.  

 

Canadian Alliance MP Chuck Cadman, who lost his son Jesse to senseless teen violence and knows of what he speaks, did everything he could to put some teeth in the bill. He proposed 55 amendments to C-7. Not one was accepted. In conversation with Cadman on Monday, he explained his frustration. "The biggest concern I have is the incredible complexity.  

 

"For every time they took a step forward, you read a couple of more paragraphs and they take two steps back," said the MP.  

 

Cadman believes the only people going to win in this are the lawyers trying to interpret the complex new law. What a surprise.

 

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