Sunday, March 1, 2015

Families mark 10th anniversary of Mayerthorpe Mountie shooting

Families mark 10th anniversary of Mayerthorpe Mountie shooting 

As the third of March draws near, Don Schiemann can't help but think about his son Peter more than usual.

It's been 10 years since Peter, 25, was ambushed by armed police hater James Roszko on his farm near Mayerthorpe. Constables Brock Myrol, 29, Anthony Gordon, 28, and Leo Johnston, 32, were also caught in the hail of bullets. All of them died at the scene.

The Mounties were guarding a Quonset hut on Roszko's property that was cordoned off as part of an investigation into a vehicle theft and marijuana cultivation. Each officer was hit with multiple rifle bullets. Roszko died with three wounds -- one self-inflicted and two likely from a police pistol.

The tragedy marked the worst RCMP shooting in Canadian history. It also changed the lives of the officer's families forever.

"In some ways it happened only yesterday and in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago," said Don, adding the recent fatal shootings of RCMP officers in St. Albert and Moncton, N.B., brought his son's death to the forefront.

Whenever Don drives by the Fallen Four Memorial Park in Mayerthorpe, he feels some sadness. But he prefers to focus on the 25 years his son lived rather than the one minute of violence that broke out in the Quonset.

"We don't want to be so paralysed by the tragedy of the event that we ignore the many wonderful blessings in our life," said Don, a church pastor and president of the Alberta-British Columbia District of the Lutheran Church-Canada.

"There are many fond memories we have of him and wish he could still be with us."

Other family members of the fallen have echoed similar statements, noting things like the weather can trigger memories of that day.

Loved ones remember Brock as a character who loved anything to do with adventure. Anthony excelled at every sport he did, while Leo was an outdoorsman who loved his career.

Leo's mother, Grace Johnston, isn't sure whether her family will do anything to mark the sombre anniversary this year. Talking about her son is still very emotional.

"We are sort of like in never never land," she said from her Lac La Biche home.

Don hadn't planned on doing anything to mark the occasion either. Instead, he remembers his son as a very capable, fun-loving man who enjoyed working with others and being a police officer. Not a day goes by when Peter isn't in his thoughts.

"Peter was a Christian man, he died in Christian faith and he lives now and that's the hope that we have -- that we will see him again one day," said Don. "And what a wonderful reunion that will be."

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