The more the extraordinary 2nd degree murder charge laid against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams in the 2012 death of 48-yr.-old Mehrdad Bayrami is looked into, the more it appears to be the railroading of a good, young police officer.
Murder is an extraordinary charge to be laid against a police officer engaged in executing his or her duty. It is even more extraordinary when laid against an officer working as an ERT (Emergency Response Team) officer.
There are so many aspects of this story that haven’t been told and I’m sorry to say so many apparent gaps in the investigation conducted by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) that one must question whether ulterior motives or politics played a part in laying a charge of murder in this case.
MacWilliams was a member of the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT) on November 8th, 2012 when, at the start of his shift, his phone went off alerting him to a call-out after shots were fired and a woman was taken hostage.
MacWilliams was the first MIERT officer to arrive on scene at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster. Within the first half-hour, the ERT members arriving set up their containment process which limited the armed suspect to a small patch of pavement on the sidewalk just outside the casino parking lot.
MacWilliams then noticed the hostage had created some separation between herself and the armed suspect. Throwing caution to the wind, MacWilliams and two other officers broke cover and ran towards danger. They deliberately put themselves in harm’s way. MacWilliams and New Westminster Const. Cliff Kusch positioned themselves between the armed suspect and the hostage while fellow Delta PD Const. Mo Parry grabbed the terrified hostage and shepherded her to safety.
MacWilliams and Kusch retreated back to cover, despite the fact either could have taken the shot to take out the suspect during the rescue. They didn’t, while risking their lives, they retreated to try and achieve a peaceful conclusion.
Hours later, the decision was made to try a non-lethal approach to arrest Bayrami using a ‘flash bang’ and ARWEN guns, which fire large plastic projectiles. MacWilliams was designated ‘lethal’ and positioned using an armoured police vehicle for cover. His job was to take the shot if the non-lethal approach went bad and the exposed officers were in jeopardy. This is a typical tactical deployment.
The flash bang went off and Bayrami jumped back, pistol waving in hand, the ARWEN rounds missed the intended target and MacWilliams fired one shot hitting Bayrami, who died nearly two weeks later in hospital.
Last Monday, the woman whose life was undoubtedly saved by MacWilliams and his colleagues showed up at the front counter of Delta Police headquarters incensed after hearing of the murder charge laid against one of the police officers who rescued her. She demanded to speak to an investigator to give a statement. Apparently, in the two years the IIO had the file, she had not been contacted by any investigator.
Think about that. The central figure at the heart of what happened on that day was not contacted by the IIO to tell her story. It’s stunning.
But it doesn’t end there.
According to casino security, to date, the IIO has not asked for, nor received any of the video from the Starlight Casino where the bulk of the events took place.
The suspect laid in wait on that morning in the parking lot of the casino. He attacked a woman as she drove into the parking lot firing three shots into the vehicle, mercifully missing her. He then dragged her from the vehicle at gunpoint and nearly a half a kilometre across the parking lot to the road where police, responding to 9-1-1 calls from casino security, responded. It was at that point the standoff began and the call went out to MIERT. And it was all watched live and recorded by casino security.
One might think that the video of all this activity might be germane to any investigation. But not to the IIO apparently. New Westminster police, who conducted a parallel investigation thought it was and obtained a copy. The Coroner’s service also thought it important and they too have a copy. But not the IIO who is the agency who have sought the charge of murder against MacWilliams.
There is undoubtedly much more to come on this very puzzling case.