Mountie recounts Mayerthorpe shootout
Ben Lemphers/for metro edmonton
Cpl. Stephen Vigor remembers hearing two loud bangs moments before a barrage of bullets starting flying, striking four Alberta Mounties as he reached for his gun.
He ran through the snow towards the noise while his partner raced to their squad car, calling for backup.
Then Jimmy Roszko emerged from out of the darkness in a nearby Quonset, pointing his gun at Vigor and firing off two rounds. He missed.
The officer returned fire, striking Roszko — twice — until he staggered back into the Quonset near the outskirts of Mayerthope, 120 km northwest of Edmonton, where he later took his own life.
The March 3, 2005, incident ended with the tragic death of four young officers — Constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann — in one of the most horrific days in Canadian policing history.
Vigor spoke publicly about the incident for the first time yesterday, a week after Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean awarded him a rare medal of bravery for preventing further bloodshed at Mayerthorpe.
"It really is a bittersweet award," he said. "I would much rather have the four officers here and not receive the award … It’s so very emotional and I still get choked up about it."
While he’s honoured by the national recognition, he deflects the title of "hero," even though his two adult children call him one.
The 30-year veteran says he joined the force because he wanted to make a difference, but his outlook on life has changed significantly since the shootings.
"It’s made me really understand how precious life is," he said. "I have stopped taking things for granted, my family, my children."
Last year, two Barrhead men — Shawn Hennessey, 28, and Dennis Cheeseman, 23 — were charged with first-degree murder in connection with the incident. But the tragedy has continued to generate criticism of the justice system and RCMP’s handling of it. Vigor urged the public, however, to wait until the trial and a fatality inquiry are complete before passing judgment.
"Being there and knowing what happened and hearing speculation and rumours is frustrating," he said.