The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is this what the police are hiding?

It's been more than a week since three Winnipeg police officers were shot during a drug raid on Jubilee Avenue, and the dust has settled enough to give us a glimpse of what's behind the headlines.

One thing is abundantly clear--- the raid went spectacularly bad.

Only one month earlier we saw how a raid gone right was presented to the public.

Drug / Weapon Arrest
On November 7th, 2006 at 11:45 p.m., members of the Winnipeg Police Service Street Crime Unit executed a Controlled Drug and Substances Act warrant at a residence in the 500 block of Alverstone Street.
As a result, the following was seized:
--more than 32 ounces of powder Cocaine with a street value of nearly $37,000.00;
--a quantity of marihuana
--drug manufacturing paraphernalia
--a gun and a quantity of ammunition
During the execution of the warrant one of the residents' Cane Corso dogs lunged at officers resulting in an officer discharging his weapon. The dog was struck in the leg and sustained non-life threatening injuries. The officers were not injured by the dog.
Twenty-nine year old Jason Allen CRAWFORD has been charged with Possessing a Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking, Possessing a Controlled Drug or Substance X 2, Production of a Controlled Substance, Possession of a Weapon Obtained by Crime, Careless Use of a Firearm, Unauthorized Possession of Firearm X 2 and Unauthorized Possession of a Weapon. He was detained at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

The official news release contained everything you wanted to know.
Who? Crawford.
Where? Alverstone.
What? Cocaine and a gun.
It even had the police shooting a gun during the raid.

This is what people expected when Police Chief Jack Ewatski met with the press the same morning the news of the Jubilee raid became public.

What they got was lots of bafflegab wrapped in barely intelligible police jargon. Ewatski was evasive and left the impression he had something to hide.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and the press jumped in to fill the information gap left by Ewatski. Within hours we were hearing more details of what happened on Jubilee Avenue from unofficial channels. But it was hard to separate fact from the speculation.

One news story alone ("Cop hailed as hero", The Winnipeg Sun, Dec. 10, 2006) was almost completely constructed from comments by unidentified people.

"...said a police source."
"...said another cop."
"...said a cop."
"...said a source."
" One source said ..."
"...said one cop."
"...the officer said."

An extreme example, maybe, but almost every story this week quoted some undeclared source offering information (emphasis ours - ed).

All four people were hurt as a dozen officers went looking for drugs at 723 Jubilee Ave. just before 11 p.m. Thursday. Once inside the house, three of the officers were shot at with what a source said was a shotgun.
Winnipeg Sun, Dec. 9

CTV News has learned that the officers were searching a house on a drug warrant when they heard a noise in the bathroom. As they approached, someone lying in wait fired a shotgun through the wall, injuring the three officers. CTV Dec. 8

Twelve officers entered the bungalow just before 11 pm. They were moving from room to room, sweeping the house, when gunfire erupted from behind a closed door.
Globe and Mail, Dec. 9

Sources said that as the officers moved from room to room, sweeping the interior of the home, shots were fired through a wall. The weapon was believed to be a 12-gauge shotgun. One officer took the brunt of a shot near the wrist. Colleagues say the impact blew through his wrist and hand, leaving him with a significant injury.
Globe and Mail, Dec. 8

A suspected drug dealer hiding in a bathroom fired a shotgun blast through the door -- hitting two police officers -- in the seconds after police raided a Jubilee Avenue home for drugs, police sources said Friday.
Wpg. Free Press, Dec. 9

Sources said the officer was wearing a bullet-proof vest at the time of the raid, but the gunfire entered his body near his pelvis and exited through his stomach. A second officer, a 17-year-veteran, was shot near the wrist and suffered injuries that could cost him the use of his hand. A third officer was shot in the back of the leg and is expected to recover.
Globe and Mail, Dec. 9

Winnipeg police officer is being hailed as a hero after he disregarded his own safety Thursday night to disarm a man who had just ambushed him and two other cops.
"He'd just had his gun blown out of his hand when he went through what was left of the bathroom door and grabbed the guy before he could reload his shotgun," said a police source
Winnipeg Sun, Dec. 10

Reporter Bruce Owen of the Winnipeg Free Press turned up an important piece of the puzzle early on.
"A third officer was shot in the leg by a fellow officer," the sources said..."
Wpg. Free Press, Dec. 9, 2006

Ahh. Was that it? What that what Jack Ewatski was hiding?

But why? The public was nothing but supportive of the police who had been wounded. They would have understood how an accident could have occurred in the heat of the moment, police officers deafened by a shotgun blast, the wounded crying out, their colleagues returning fire.

There had to be something more, and an alternative reason for secrecy was soon on the table.

-- Did the police, who regularly warn people against taking the law into their own hands, deliver a little rough justice to the suspect they blamed for shooting their friends?

Scan the eyewitness statements and "unidentified sources" and you can see where this idea comes from

"he went through what was left of the bathroom door and grabbed the guy before he could reload his shotgun," said a police source."
Winnipeg Sun , Dec. 10

"she watched her son being "dragged" out of the house after the shooting stopped."
Winnipeg Free Press, Dec. 10

"They had one person on the boulevard and they were kind of holding him down ..."
Canadian Press, Dec. 8

"One neighbour... said she looked out her window and saw two men wrestling on the front lawn at 723 Jubilee Ave. and a man giving chase to another individual down Jubilee."
Wpg. Free Press , Dec. 9

"Anderson, 21, who is charged with attempted murder, was chased down after he fled the house at 723 Jubilee"
Winnipeg Free Press, Dec. 9

The witness's wife said "There was yelling and shots outside, so we got up to look out the window. I saw people running between cars and heard one officer yell 'Get down.' I'm not sure what happened. I think I heard three shots."
Winnipeg Free Press, Dec. 7

(The suspect was shot in the hand {he lost three fingers} and in the arm. Police won't say when he was shot.)

Headline: "Accused police shooter was beaten, lawyer says."
"He was severely beaten about the face. His face is like an eggplant."
Globe and Mail, Dec. 11

Police Chief Ewatski has been almost apoplectic at allegations like this. But he still refuses to provide any more details of the raid. In fact, his communication skills are so bad, it's almost like he's speaking a foreign language.

Here's what he told the CBC about the condition of the wounded officers:

"I am happy to say that all three of them are progressing in the positive direction relative to the recovering of their injuries. I'm very pleased with that"

Translation: They're doing fine considering they all got shot.

The police reluctance to add anything to the public's understanding of what happened on Jubilee Avenue is certainly not, as they claim, because of any concern about the suspect's rights to a fair trial. Just ask Jason Crawford (above).

Police spokesman Sgt. Kelly Dennison has made no bones about that.
"Mr. Anderson is responsible, for sure, for shooting two of our police officers."
Winnipeg Free Press, Dec. 12 "Officer released from hospital."

-- The Black Rod may have discovered the real reason for the tight lip treatment.
It starts with the raid on 723 Jubilee Avenue.

On Monday, the Winnipeg Free Press provided a diagram of the layout of the house, which has been an invaluable tool. (See, we give praise to the FP when it's due.)

The house has a front door onto Jubilee, a side door, and a patio door opening onto the back yard. Police covered all exits during the raid.

Twelve police officers were at the house.
The team included a canine unit.
Assume the dog handler and his partner (the human, not the dog), were stationed at the rear of the house to cover the patio and side doors and sic the dog if anyone not in uniform ran out.

That means ten officers entered the house.

The side door leads directly to a set of stairs to the basement. Two officers would have gone down to secure the area.

That leaves eight officers going into the main floor.

The suspect's mother was in the kitchen when police broke down the side door with a battering ram. She would have been handcuffed and put in the custody of one officer.

The suspect's girlfriend was in the living room. She has to be the luckiest woman in the city.

She had gone in just as the police were preparing to enter the house, to shut the lights. An unidentified person moving around in a darkened room just as police storm into the house is a breath away from getting shot. Instead, she was just taken into custody and put in the kitchen with the mother.Two women and two officers standing guard over the prisoners.

Four left.
Of the four, three are shot.
The last man standing is presumably literally holding the proverbial smoking gun.

We know one of the wounded policemen was likely shot by another officer.
But there's a hint that a second wounded policeman was also hit by a police bullet.

FP reporter Bruce Owen wrote Dec. 12 in a Web update:

"Sources have said Anderson was armed with a shotgun and fired through the door, hitting the two senior constables. Penner also suffered a gun shot wound, but Dennison said it's not known if he was hit faby a bullet fired from a police officer's pistol or by a ricochet."

Const. Curtis Penner is the officer shot in the hand and forearm. Const. Jeremy Cull is the officer shot in the leg, presumably by a police gun. The third wounded officer is Const. Don Murray, who was hit in the abdomen by the shotgun blast.

Was Penner also hit by a police bullet? Were two of the wounded officers shot by police? Or did Owen garble his own story?

Regardless, the result would be the same.

-- We just have to look at the testimony from the inquest into the fatal shooting of Abe Hiebert, Dec. 16, 1997, almost nine years ago to the day. It was another drug raid gone bad.

Sgt. Bob Freeman testified that after the shooting, he seized the shooter's gun. Police policy, he said.
He then issued a standard police caution to the police officer.

P. 59
Q. You charged and cautioned him with what?
A. Charged and cautioned him with careless use of afirearm, attempted murder and/or similar charges.
Q. What was the reason for charge and caution?
A. I charged and cautioned him because I am aware thatit was possibly policy. I wasn't totally aware if it was but I thought it might be. As well as that, I knew he would have to justify his actions in a court of law at a later time.

Herein may lie the answer to why the police are apparently acting so suspiciously in the Jubilee case.

As a result of the J.J. Harper shooting, Winnipeg police adopted a policy of treating all officers involved in a police shooting, whether fatal or involving serious injury, as potential criminal suspects.

Look at the charge and caution given to the officer in the Hiebert shooting.

Careless use of a firearm or similar charges.

That would apply to the Jubilee shooting.

So if one (or more) officers on the Jubilee raid were charged and cautioned as a result of the shooting of either the raid suspect or another policeman, then we can see why Ewatski can legitimately claim to be unable to say what happened.

When Dennison told the Free Press "detectives investigating the shooting -- all serious police shootings are investigated - ("Police officer shot in leg released from hospital", Dec. 12, 2006)", he may have been referring to the internal investigation of the officers on the raid.

A separate protocol would then be in place. Union lawyers would be representing the officers. And the first thing a lawyer tells a client is "don't say anything." That means the officers in the best situation to know what happened haven't given formal statements.

That would explain why the police have to rely on ballistics and forensics investigators to tell them what happened and who shot who.

The information isn't entirely for the trial of the raid suspect. It is to provide to any outside agency that reviews the shootings that took place in the likely event that the police are cleared of wrongdoing.

And that may be why nobody from Ewatski on down is in a position of answering the obvious questions about the drug raid on Jubilee Avenue. They're not covering anything up. They're doing a double investigation in an excess of diligence.

Now, while we wait for the results, can we get Jack Ewatski into an ESL program and teach him how to talk like a human being instead of a copspeak-spewing automaton?

Jeremy Cull, one of the police injured in the Jubilee raid, has been released from hospital and is recuperating at home.

Almost a year ago, the Winnipeg Sun carried this letter to the editor:

Letters to the Editor
Winnipeg Sun
Jan. 13, 2006
Screwdriver can be lethal
Re: Man may lose sight (Chris Kitching and Paul Turenne, Jan. 12).
Nice to see people in a uproar when a victim is stabbed in the eye. The victim will likely loss his eyesight, but he is lucky that is all he lost. I believe it was almost a year ago when the people and media in Winnipeg were in an uproar because a police officer used lethal force against a man wielding a screwdriver. I'm sure the victim, Chris McDonald, understands why that police officer was forced to defend himself.

Jeremy Cull

How many Jeremy Cull's are there?

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