(Prime Time Crime exclusive Dec. 30, 2004)

The cops are the good guys

By Leo Knight

On Boxing Day, a little before nine thirty in the evening, two Vancouver Police officers tried to arrest Gerald Samuel Chenery on a warrant.  In the process Chenery, 29, pulled a knife and attacked the officers. He was shot and killed after ignoring repeated orders to drop his knife.

In the days that followed, the media tried to make a big deal out of the fact the two officers involved, one male and one female, were “rookies.”  VPD spokesperson Constable Sarah Bloor did her level best to quiet the baying pack, but alas, to no avail.

On Wednesday, VPD released Chenery’s name and some details about his background including the fact he had stabbed one person before and had attempted to stab another. The following day the information was reported in a brief on page 30 of The Province and glossed over by the news radio stations. CBC had the story up on their web site for a few hours.

Meanwhile, a radio talk show was doing a segment about how the police shouldn’t investigate themselves because it causes the public to lose confidence in them. The guests were a notorious lawyer who seems to delight in attacking the police and an “activist” who refuses to accept that the police conducted themselves appropriately in the so-called “Riot at the Hyatt” in 1998, no matter how many times she gets told or in how many ways by how many people.

The final member of the discussion was the Police Complaints Commissioner who, by definition, does not side with the police and is supposed to act as an advocate for the public interest. The police were not represented.

The deck, as they say, was stacked

Chenery was only 29 years old when he died. He was a teenager when he was convicted of being involved in a home invasion. Needless to say, in the ensuing years he compiled a lengthy criminal history for everything from B & E to assault to weapons offences. Two years ago he stabbed another man in the leg.

Just three days later he tried to stab a store detective at Virgin Records who had the temerity to try and arrest him for stealing. After he was arrested, police charged him with a further five robberies.

And despite all of that, he was released on parole and told to show up at a halfway house. And guess what, he didn’t show up there. For that his parole was breached with the ink barely dry on the release documents.

It was for this warrant the police were trying to arrest Chenery when they approached him on Hastings Street on Sunday.

The knife he pulled on the police as they approached was of the large kitchen variety. He also had a second knife in his possession. He attacked the female police officer and after repeated warnings at gunpoint, the male officer finally fired the fatal shots. The female officer was actually cut in the attack.

I should add that there was a civilian witness to the events who has provided a statement backing up the police. The police have asked anyone else who may have seen the events to come forward as well, but that too was not put out by the media, at least as far as I could find.

When the Homicide investigators are finished mopping this up, they will forward their complete file to both the Internal Investigation Unit for review, and, to the Crown Prosecutors office for their determination. Simultaneously, the BC Coroner’s Service is conducting its own investigation. There will also be a Coroner’s Inquiry in all likelihood, as there usually is in all police-involved shootings.  If the family of Chenery chooses, the Police Complaints Commissioner will also review the actions of the police.

The shooting incident, from start to finish, lasted seconds. The review will take months, if not years, to dissect the actions of those two “rookies.” I’m going to step out on a limb here and say their actions were justified. If anything, a more experienced officer might have fired a little quicker.

One wonders how, in any of this, it can be construed that the public might lose confidence in their police force. Quite the contrary, if one looks at all the details, the actions of the Vancouver Police in this should fill the public with the confidence to know there are young men and women who still have the courage to go into the streets and confront violent, criminal thugs like Chenery.

If anything, the public if asked, would have a great deal less confidence in any system that lets someone like Chenery out of a jail, tells him to be a good boy and please show up at your halfway house.

For all the noise made by some lawyers and the media, the reality is the cops are the good guys.



Police File #04-333470 – Police Involved Shooting

On Sunday, December 26 th, just before 9:30 in the evening, two officers were arresting a man in the south lane of the 200 block of E. Hastings St. when he drew a large kitchen knife and attacked them. The officers repeatedly demanded the man drop his weapon. When he refused to do so, and came at them, they shot and killed him.

The deceased is Gerald Samuel Chenery, 29 years. He had a lengthy criminal record, including convictions for robbery, possession of a weapon, assault, and breaking and entering. He had stabbed one person in the past and attempted to stab another. The two officers were attempting to arrest him for a Canada wide warrant for Revocation of Parole when he attacked them. Chenery’s next-of-kin have been notified.

This incident will be investigated by members of our Homicide Squad, along with the Coroner’s Service, and as is our routine practice in all such incidents, the results of our investigation will be provided to the Provincial Crown Counsel, as well as our Internal Investigation Section.

There is a civilian witness who was nearby throughout the incident. This person heard the officers yelling at Chenery to drop his knife over and over before any shots were fired. Police are urging any other witnesses to please come forward. As well, police have recovered two knives that were in Chenery’s possession during the attack.

This incident has had a profound affect on the two police officers and they have received counselling from our Post Critical Incident Trauma Team. One of the officers suffered minor cuts from the attack, but they are not considered serious.

An autopsy will be conducted later this week.

VPD media release  Dec. 29, 2004

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