“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.
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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