Fatality inquiry into Mayerthorpe tragedy underway

Expected to last two weeks, a fatality inquiry into the deaths of four RCMP constables killed in Mayerthorpe in 2005 is underway in Stony Plain.

The officers, Constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann were shot while helping with a criminal investigation on the property of James Roszko near Mayerthorpe on March 3, 2005.

The tragedy marked the worst single-day loss of life in more than a century for the RCMP. Roszko later turned the gun on himself.

Serving and former officers are scheduled to give testimony at the inquiry including Rod Knecht, senior deputy commissioner who was the commanding officer of ‘K’ Division RCMP at the time of the shootings. The inquiry is being held at Stony Plain Provincial Court.

Public inquiries are limited to establishing the cause, manner, time, place and circumstances of death. The judge may make recommendations on the prevention of similar occurrences but is prohibited from making findings of legal responsibility.

Recommendations from fatality inquiries are not binding and don’t assign blame.

According to press reports, remaining questions about the tragedy itself include how did Roszko sneak back into the Quonset hut on his property with police guarding it, and how did he get his hands on the murder weapons?

Funerals for the two of the officers – Anthony Gordon and Brock Myrol – were held in Red Deer as the men had roots in the City. Schiemann’s funeral was held in Stony Plain while Johnston’s service was held in Lac La Biche. A national memorial was also held on the University of Alberta campus.

Meanwhile, families of the victims have been attending some of the proceedings despite the testimonies and specific details of the deaths which are being presented. The victims’ families also have ‘standing’ at the inquiry, which allows them to question witnesses.

The inquiry, which is mandatory in all deaths such as what happened near Mayerthorpe, had been delayed until this week while other court proceedings were ongoing, including the conviction of two of Roszko’s accomplices, Shawn Hennessey and Dennis Cheeseman.

Hennessey and Cheeseman were convicted of manslaughter two years ago for giving Roszko a ride back to the farm the previous night before the murders and for giving him a third weapon, a rifle.

Both men had also reportedly wanted to take part in the inquiry but were denied the opportunity to do so by Judge Pahl.