After working almost three decades in Law Enforcement I’m rarely surprised when I hear or read stories that dilute the truth or sacrifice reality out of an apparent need to publish politically correct versions of news worthy events.
I don’t think many people would disagree when I suggest the media can significantly influence the public’s perception of a breaking news story.
It was with interest that I followed news accounts of a recent RCMP Officer Involved shooting in Norway House, Manitoba. The intended target was identified as Evan Matthew Cromarty (20) who is now facing charges of aggravated assault, break and enter and four counts of uttering threats.
News accounts indicate the RCMP shooter discharged four (4) shots with at least one shot finding it’s mark in Cromarty’s shoulder. After the shooting Cromarty was rushed by air ambulance to Winnipeg where he was treated at hospital.
The shooting was controversial for a number of reasons, the most significant one being that it occurred in front of approximately three-hundred (300) people who were attending two baseball games. One game involved twelve (12) year olds and the other involved seventeen (17) year olds. Many children and teens were undoubtedly traumatized by the incident.
Media accounts indicate Cromarty was unarmed and had his hands in the air at the time he was shot. The shooting outraged many people living in the community and clearly damaged relationships with the RCMP.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was assigned to complete the investigation.
The Winnipeg Free Press reported Cromarty has a notorious criminal past and indicated he was sentenced on May 7 to eighteen (18) months of time served after pleading guilty to accessory after the fact and breaching a court order. The charges were laid in connection with a Norway House shooting in January 2012 where a twenty-three (23) year old man and his three (3) year old son were struck by gunfire. Both victims were reported to be innocent, unintended targets.
Cromarty’s lawyer indicated he’s been addicted to drugs and alcohol since his early teens and has had constant run-ins with the Police. He has a minimal education and was the subject of a five-year banishment from his community. (Dates not specified)
It’s clear from the reporting that he’s no saint.
Here’s where things gets weird for me.
Cromarty’s photo attached to the story was captured from Facebook and features him in an almost angelic pose with his hands clasped close to his chest with an adorable boyish grin on his face.
When I searched Facebook to dig a little deeper I was surprised to find a vast selection of photographic options that seem to capture the true essence of the young man at the center of the latest Police use of force controversy.
Photographs like this these;
I wondered why the press didn’t publish photographs of Mr Cromarty doing his thing, brandishing weapons, flashing gang signs or guzzling whiskey, from the bottle no less. Someone made the conscious decision to go with the “watered down” version of Mr Cromarty. The question is why? Does the “watered down” photograph provide the public with an honest depiction of this young man’s true character?
When you look at Cromarty’s contrasting photographs you start to get an idea of what the RCMP Officers were up against when they confronted him. In fact, you get a realistic sense of what the RCMP and WPS are up against every single day they put on their Police boots in their efforts to try to keep our communities safe.
Now, I am in no way suggesting Evan Cromarty deserved to be shot by the Police. That conclusion will be determined by ASIRT and will be based on universally accepted use of force protocols. The RCMP Officer who fired the shots will be required to justify his use of deadly force or he will surely suffer the consequences.
I urge people to resist the urge to judge the RCMP Officer or Cromarty before all the facts are known.
Ultimately, I’m relieved Cromarty survived.
I’m relieved for him and I’m relieved for the Officer’s involved in the shooting.
There are no winners in a fatal Police shooting.
In the bigger picture, the Evan Cromarty story offers us a glimpse into what life is like in Norway House and many other northern Manitoba communities. Communities where many young people like Cromarty have lost their culture and replaced it with a different kind of culture; the culture of weapons, booze, drugs and gangsters.
That new culture can be directly attributed to four (4) significant areas of crime where the Province of Manitoba and City of Winnipeg lead the nation;
- Violent Crime
- Youth Crime
(Source; 2013 Statistics Canada Report on Crime)
It’s the Evan Cromarty’s of the Province who are going to keep us in those top spots.
That is, unless we can find a way bring back a lost generation.
The ASIRT investigation is ongoing…..