This morning in Cranbrook, common sense finally re-entered the room and the Crown entered a stay of proceedings against RCMP Cst. Rick Drought. I first told you about this on Monday, but Drought has been going through hell since criminal charges were laid against him more than two years ago.
But this case was messed up out of the gate. And for a number of reasons. Where to begin?
Quite apart from the nonsense spouted by Independent Investigations Office (IIO) investigator Sherman Mah when he testified that he had no ability to take measurements at the scene and resorted to super-imposing an RCMP diagram on a printout of Google Earth to estimate the distance between Drought when he opened fire and the vehicle accelerating towards him. That was not only wrong, but plainly embarrassing. I only wish it stopped there.
I spoke tonight with Alan Armstrong, the good Samaritan who stopped to help Nicholas John Bullock and his 17-yr-old girlfriend who had run out of gas in the car they had highjacked in Coquitlam hours earlier.
When Armstrong picked them up he engaged them in conversation. Bullock repaid his courtesy by placing a cold, metal something at the back of his head and said, “Pull over. I’ve got a gun against your head and I’ll blow your fucking head off.” Armstrong protested that he was in traffic and couldn’t and Bullock repeated the threat.
Armstrong pulled over and undid his seatbelt as he was told. He got a boot in his ribs pushing him from his Toyota 4Runner and got blasted with bear spray in the face for his trouble.
Bullock sped off with his vehicle while Armstrong staggered to a nearby home and asked for help. It was from there he called police and reported the carjacking at gunpoint.
It was this information that was broadcast out to Cranbrook RCMP officers when Drought spotted the 4Runner near Elizabeth Lake and he took up the pursuit.
But none of this information was known to the IIO because they never contacted Armstrong to get his story. They did finally contact him a little over a month after the events of Oct, 2, 2012. But that was to ask him if he knew where his SUV was. So, a month after they took control of an officer involved shooting they contacted the victim of a car-jacking not to get details of what happened, but to see if he knew what had happened to their primary exhibit. I was stunned.
How would anyone with care and control of an investigation such as this, lose control of their primary exhibit? The incompetence is stunning.
Not to mention not speaking to the victim of the carjacking. You almost think the information about the gun given to the RCMP and broadcast to responding members would be germane, wouldn’t you?
Armstrong was incredulous when he spoke to the IIO investigator. And he’s a civilian. He said to the IIO investigator,”Why don’t you stand up in your cubicle and ask if anyone there knows where the vehicle is.” The response was classic. The IIO investigator said, “I hope if we have to contact you again I hope you’ll be more cooperative.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
When this file played out and the Crown in the form of Oleh Kuzma, former failed Regional Crown in the Interior, approved charges against Drought, Richard Rosenthal, the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO dispatched investigators to Cranbrook to serve the charge documents on Drought who was out of town with his son.
What occurred then was a comedy wrapped in a tragedy. The investigators insisted on serving the charging documents directly and Drought’s lawyers said they would accept service. The back and forth took about eight hours.
They finally served counsel and returned to Vancouver. Rosenthal questioned them asking why they didn’t arrest Drought and conduct a ‘Perp walk’ with him. Unbelievable.
Richard Rosenthal is an absolute embarrassment in the role of CCD of the IIO. He has been protected by a Deputy Minister in the Department of Justice despite the myriad of complaints about him from very credible investigators in the IIO who have since been fired by Rosenthal.
The reality is there is little competence remaining in the IIO. The government may have had good intentions in the formation of the IIO, but the reality is something that is vastly different from those good intentions and needs to the addressed.
Premier Clark, this is now on you.