Conspiracy theorists suffered a fatal blow today when Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis held a press conference disclosing information that Andrew Baryluk (52) died as a result of a single self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In case you missed the back story….
On July 30, 2014, at approximately 10:45 am, members of the Winnipeg Police Service responded to a call for service regarding a distraught man inside a residence in the 500 block of Stella Avenue. It was reported the man was in possession of a weapon or firearm and made threats to harm himself.
A number of Police Units arrived on scene and secured the area. Some nearby residents were evacuated as a precaution.
Members of the Crisis Negotiations Unit (CNU) were deployed.
Police indicate they were successful at making contact with Baryluk and had conversation with him. Unfortunately, telephone communication was lost sometime during the early evening. Attempts were made to re-establish communication by Tactical Officers who tried to deliver a communication device to Baryluk.
At approximately 8:20 pm, while attempting to deliver the communication device, shots came from within the residence prompting Tactical Team Officers to return fire and retreat to safety.
At approximately 3:00 am, Tactical Officers entered the residence and found Baryluk deceased.
No Officers were injured during the incident.
Police now confirm a firearm was located and seized from within the residence and Baryluk died by his own hand.
The death of Andrew Baryluk now presents the Monday morning quarterbacks an opportunity to engage in wild speculation regarding a virtual Pandora’s box of highly controversial questions.
Questions like, “What blame should we assign to the Police, family, social services and the mental health community for the tragic outcome?”
I’ll stay on the sidelines as the debate rages on…
I’d like to tackle a different issue.
The Delay in Release of Information;
In the days that followed the shooting I was enticed by several news agencies to offer a public explanation regarding the information vacuum that existed courtesy of the Winnipeg Police Service. After all, almost seven (7) days have passed since the Police Chief took the podium to end the speculation.
The burning question remained;
Did the Police shoot and kill Mr Baryluk or did he take his own life?
To be sure, Homicide investigators working the investigation would have undoubtedly known Baryluk took his own life mere moments after the Tactical Support Team Officers entered the house and found his lifeless body.
So why the delay in the release of this information?
The Police had two options;
- Release prompt information indicating Mr Baryluk “appeared” to have taken his own life
- Release precise information once the results of forensic examinations remove any doubt regarding the origin of the fatal shot
The first option is clearly fraught with a degree of risk.
What would happen if forensic results ultimately showed the projectile that caused Baryluk’s death was fired from a Police Officer’s weapon?
The media would scream incompetence, indict the Chief of Police and indict the investigation and investigators. Baryluk’s family and friends would be outraged while the public’s confidence in the Police Service would surely be wounded.
Imagine the fodder the erroneous information would provide for conspiracy theorists and the police hater community.
The second option is a much safer, logical approach that removes the risk.
Much to the bane of local news media the philosophy of the WPS has long been, “It’s better to be right than expeditious.” Being “right” removes much of the risk and ensures public confidence in the Police Service is maintained.
On the down side, the information vacuum leads to speculation in the media which has the potential to inflame the family, members of the affected community and the public.
Either way, the Police Service is likely to be the subject of some form of criticism. In this case, they picked their poison and will live with the results.
The decision to write inflammatory articles making wild accusations and presenting conspiracy theories was also a choice. That choice is looking somewhat foolish as the dust starts to settle on this tragic event.
As one officer close to the investigation put it, “The Police run these investigations, not the press. In this case, I’d say that’s a good thing.”
I have to agree.
In this case, it really was better to be right, than prompt.