STONY PLAIN — The Quonset hut where James Roszko ambushed and gunned down four Alberta Mounties contained a personal armoury of weapons and may have housed the military assault rifle used to commit the crime, an inquiry was told Monday.
Crime scene investigator Sgt. Kevin Quail said a search of the rafters of the massive, semi-circular metal structure unearthed a box containing a 12-gauge shotgun and .22-calibre rifle.
Nearby, he said, was an empty gun case that may or may not have been big enough to hide the murder weapon — a .308 Heckler and Koch semi-automatic assault rifle.
Below, on the dirt floor of the Quonset, was a farm implement — a seeder. Inside it was hidden a third box, this one containing three rifles.
All weapons were missed when police initially went through the hut near Mayerthorpe hours earlier as they rounded up and seized marijuana plants.
But whether Roszko got the rifle from inside the hut or somewhere else on his sprawling acreage may ultimately remain a mystery, Quail told a fatality inquiry examining the deaths of constables Anthony Gordon, Peter Schiemann, Brock Myrol and Leo Johnston.
“Did you ever identify where the assault rifle may have been placed,” Quail was asked by Don Schiemann, father of Peter Schiemann.
“No I didn’t. I don’t know,” said Quail.
Provincial court Judge Daniel Pahl will hear evidence on what led to the shootings by Roszko on the farm on the morning of March 3, 2005 and make recommendations on how to make things safer for officers. His mandate does not allow him to assign blame.
The four constables were guarding the hut as a crime scene. A day earlier, they had found the 280 marijuana plants and stolen car parts.
Quail also testified that it appeared Johnston was not the only officer inside the hut to draw his 9 mm gun on Roszko in the gun battle that left 19 shells on the floor and the officers dead from multiple wounds.
Quail said Myrol’s gun was also found out of its holster, near his body, not fired.
“Did you get the impression he had drawn his gun,” Myrol’s fiancee, Anjila Steeves-Myrol, asked him.
“That was my feeling.”
Quail said Gordon had not drawn his gun. It’s believed he never had a chance because he was the first to be shot by Roszko. Gordon was near the front of the Quonset when the ambush started and Roszko was believed to be hidden behind a vat, also near the front.
Johnston managed to get one shot off at Roszko before his gun jammed, but the bullet hit the butt of a Luger handgun tucked in Roszko’s waistband and pinged away.
It has never been clearly established how or when Roszko managed to elude the police cordon and enter the hut after fleeing the scene the previous day.
He was given a ride back to the farm under cover of night by accomplices Shawn Hennessey and Dennis Cheeseman. They also gave him a rifle that ultimately wasn’t used to kill the officers.
Quail suggested Monday that when Roszko did dash in, he didn’t have to go far. Some of the items linked to Roszko and believed to have been used by him that night were found on the northeast corner of the Quonset, mere metres from the open doorway used to move vehicles in and out.
Quail said they found gloves, bear repellent, water, a pillow case — presumably used to hide the rifle — and a white sheet believed to have been used by Roszko to hide his movements as he covered the 1.5 kilometres of snow-covered bushland between his drop-off point and the Quonset.
Quail said it’s impossible to determine how long Roszko would have stationed himself at the spot.
The hearing has heard of one possible opportunity when Roszko could have entered the front of the hut undetected. When Schiemann and Myrol arrived on scene, about 25 minutes before the shooting, all four officers left the front of the hut to go around back and sedate Roszko’s vicious dogs.