Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Police Officer Murdered in Ottawa

When ready-made and easy-to-follow narrtatives come screeching to a halt, many people don't quite know how to react.

In 1995 I was living in Tel Aviv when Yitzhak Rabin was murdered. The night is burned in my memory. There was a nice chill in the air, and a political rally in support of the Oslo peace process was being held a few kilometres away at the Kikar Malchey Israel (Kings of Israel Square). I half-heartedly urged some friends that we should head down to take in the event. Instead, we settled for a night at the local pub.

A few hours later the word came out that Rabin had been shot. There were two palpable, collective pauses that night. The first was after everyone knew the shooting had taken place, but there was still little information available regarding Rabin's condition. A short time later the worst possible outcome was realized: Rabin was dead.

After news that Rabin was dead, rage quickly grew. Everyone was certain was that there was going to be a war, the assumption being that an Arab had pulled the trigger. But still, the officical word had to come down so that the rage could be consummated. When the news broke that, in fact, a Jew had put five bullets in Rabin's back, no one knew quite how to react. A wrench had been thrown into the narrative.

Police Officer Murdered in Ottawa

This is what I am reminded of as the story of a police officer stabbed to death in Ottawa has evolved today. The rightful mourning for the fallen officer, Eric Czapnik, started in earnest as soon as the horrible details started to come out. An officer writing some notes in his car outside an Ottawa hospital was attacked by a knife wielding maniac and stabbed to death.

But things took an even worse turn when we learned that an RCMP officer, Kevin Gregson, had done the killing. The sadness and mourning will not be diminished for the many people who are affected by this killing. But somehow, while it's all a bit more repellent and vile, the rage won't be channeled quite as easily and purely as it would have been if the killer had been a career criminal.

The hatred would have been white hot, the calls for revenge greater, and the ease of attacking the courts for lenience (the RCMP officer who did the killing pulled a knife and threatened someone a few years ago) would have been unhindered.

This will be much harder for police officers to deal with.

Numerous Questions

The details of this story will take some time to come to light. When you consider the secrecy and closed nature of all police forces, it's easy to imagine that the RCMP, at least, will do its best to keep the public in the dark about what exactly happened here.

What is already known is:

The RCMP officer who did the killing was on leave due to the previous charge he faced in 2007, and surgery that he underwent to remove cysts from his brain.

Czapnik was at the hospital on an unrelated call when he was attacked and killed.

But the questions are numerous:

What was Gregson doing at the hospital?

Did Gregson know Czapnik? In other words, was this personal?

Was Gregson treated more leniently in 2007 because he was a member of the RCMP?

Besides determining exactly what happened, the interaction between the Ottawa police and the RCMP will be interesting to watch as this story unfolds.

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