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  • Police, public not having a "blast"

    608t.jpg Are Winnipeg residents are getting a little paranoid about the amount of recent gunplay they've seen, heard and read about on city streets?During the past couple of nights (Monday June 30, Tuesday July 1), 911 operators have been flooded with calls from concerned citizens who believe their neighbourhoods might be hosting the latest gang-related shoot-out.I'll let the words of one very tired sounding dispatcher - overheard on the police scanner at about 2 a.m. Tuesday - explain what's really been going on."Happy Canada Day," he said, with all the enthusiasm of a man going in for a root canal.Our country's birthday has always been a popular time for people to show their national pride by sending colourful balls of fire screaming into the sky.fireworks.jpg And yet I can't remember ever hearing about so many fireworks celebrations being mistaken for gunfire.I believe this year's large volume of calls - which tie up considerable police resources as every one must be investigated - is a direct reflection of the growing fear many Winnipeggers have with regards to guns.Drive-by shootings are seemingly happening every few days. A home was riddled with bullets in broad daylight just last week. A teen got shot in the leg while playing a game of "Russian Roulette" with friends a few days ago.A man was gunned down on a crowded Pembina Highway hotel patio earlier this spring. Three men were shot dead inside an Alexander Avenue home a few months back.The stories go on, and on, and on. And I think the public has now been conditioned to believe that it can happen anytime, anywhere.I'm sure most of the people who have called 911 the past few nights believed they were probably just hearing fireworks. But they probably were thinking "better safe than sorry" when they picked up the phone.And who can blame them?However...There might be some blame to go around for those responsible for setting off fireworks...and false alarms.A quick read of the City of Winnipeg website shows that anyone wishing to "blast off" must first apply for, and obtain, a permit.Just a guess here, but the majority of these late-night pop-pop-pops are likely coming from folks who haven't bothered to ask Uncle Sam (Katz) for permission.I'm not sure how many by-law offences are being handed out - but it's clear the issue is a significant one in terms of tying up valuable police resources.So here's my questions for you.Should some of these citizens just relax a bit and enjoy the sights and sounds? Have you been jolted from sleep by fireworks? Have you dropped a dime on your festive neighbour?Post your comments below.
  • Don't believe everything you read on the Internet!

    A tip of the hat to my colleagues, Lindsey Wiebe and Jason Bell, for sending this little gem my way.Earlier this week, Lindsey was preparing to write a story that involved the tiny town of Zhoda, Manitoba. Not knowing too much about the community, she went online to see what she could find.The following is courtesty of Wikipedia.Unlike most small towns or hamlets, uniquely; Zhoda reeve establishment is not based on community votes or campaigns. Every second year a wrestling match is promoted in the area and candidate hopefuls line up for their time in the ring. If one is to old, impaired, or weak, they can choose another to represent themselves. Wrestling matches take place during June-July and are held at the Zhoda Hall. Currently, Stephen El Stevo is the reigning 5 year champion who's style include a Mexican-style wrestling blended with American boxing.This year's competition is set to have four main contestants, namely, the current title holder, Stephen El Stevo, "Old Man" Arhaas, Johnny "Sober" Sobering, Agatha "Aggie" Wall, and Professor Peter Potato Dungalinger Wigglebums.Zhoda's main export, while not being financially lucrative, is stray dogs. Currently, shipments are being made to Grunthal and Winnipeg, but it has been noted that La Broquerie has it's eyes set on importing the vast majority into their possession.It appears someone has been having some fun at Zhoda's expense!And while we can probably all get a chuckle out of the entry, it's a good reminder that the Internet is still a vast, largely unpoliced universe where an "anything goes" mentality sometimes exists.romdogs.jpg NachoLibre.jpg So be careful out there. And have a great long weekend. I'll be in Zhoda, sitting ringside with the strays and watching to see if the great Stephen El Stevo can fend off his beefy challengers.www.mikeoncrime.com
  • Are we being unfair to the "laughing" car thief?

    In the past few weeks, my colleague, James Turner, and I have written plenty about the 16-year-old Winnipeg girl who laughed off the death of a city cabbie following a horrific stolen car crash in March.Reaction to our stories has been widespread, with the publicly clearly outraged by this teen's behaviour and her inability to follow court orders.It reached a fever pitch this past weekend when we revealed that the girl has gone online and posted pictures of the tragedy - complete with her own headline of "F---ing Deaaaaadly!" along with images of her proudly showing off her court-ordered ankle bracelet. (Read story HERE)The same bracelet she's accused of trying to saw off last week, which has now landed her back in custody.James and I have spent time with the girl's parents, who are frustrated as anyone. This is not a case of neglectful, uncaring parents - Mom has already turned her daughter in twice to police for breaches. How many parents out there would honestly do the same thing with their child?Police and justice officials are also fed up, with many wondering what it will take to get the message through to this girl.However, not everyone thinks the situation is as hopeless as it appears.As you can see in the email below, the chaplain at the Manitoba Youth Centre believes this girl is a much different one than is being portrayed in court and in public.And he feels us media types have been unfair with our coverage.Have a read - and then tell me what you think by posting your comments below. (The only editing I've done is to remove the girl's name, as publishing it is a violation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act)*****Mike,Here’s the letter I wrote the court. It’s based on a significant amount of time spent in conversation with this young woman and provides, I think, some badly needed balance to the perception that has developed around this story. I find it interesting that some people assume that the comments she made during a very tense and awkward interrogation are more credible and authentic than the comments she made in a safe environment after careful reflection. Anyway the letter represents my professional opinion as someone who has been engaged in pastoral care and counseling for over 30 years.Colin Peterson, Chaplain, MYCTo whom it may concern,Re: (The girl's name)I have met with (the girl) four times since her admission to the Manitoba Youth Centre.The purpose of these meetings was to offer spiritual care and counselling. Based on my sessions with (the girl) I would offer the following observations:(The girl) is, in many respects, a typical teenager who speaks and acts impulsively sometimes minimizing the impact of her words and actions. As a defense mechanism, when (the girl) feels uncomfortable or vulnerable, she presents with a certain measure of hostility or “attitude” and appears to be rude or selfish. When given a safe environment in which to discuss her fears and deepest feelings, it is evident that she is a sensitive young woman who is capable of expressing empathy and remorse with authentic and congruent emotion and affect. It is my belief that her highly publicized remarks to the WPS, while deeply disturbing, were not a true reflection of (the girl's) beliefs and feelings but more likely a post-traumatic response and a reflection of the profound emotion surrounding the events about which she was being questioned.My sessions with her have been emotional sessions indeed. It is my conviction that with ongoing support and counselling, (the girl), will learn to trust persons in positions of authority and express her feelings of pain and sadness more openly and appropriately.Yours truly,The Rev. Colin Peterson; M.Div. S.T.M.Chaplain – Manitoba Youth Centre
  • No hero in his home

    He describes himself as a loyal, proud soldier who has served his country with honour.But there is another side to this 25-year-old Winnipeg man. And as we heard in court this week, his actions with his own family have been anything but honourable.The man -who can't be named under a court order - admits he deliberately and brutally inflicted pain on his tiny triplet sons following their births last year.His so-called "explanation" for his actions is chilling, to say the least. As Crown attorney Jennifer Mann said in court, it appears that he believes the babies had some kind of personal vendetta against him."These three babies are screaming at me 24/7. I’m frustrated all the time. I know I’m hurting them… but they all set me off sometimes," he said.The father even told police he took steps to ensure the abuse wouldn't be discovered by his wife or anyone else."I would squeeze them because it didn’t leave a mark. That was my biggest concern," he said.You'd like to think a parent's biggest concern would be the well-being of their children. But the sad reality is there are plenty of people out there who are clearly unfit to raise children.I have all the sympathy in the world for the frustrations and struggles associated with raising children, especially little babies. As a father of two, my wife and I had many long days and nights where we seriously questioned what we'd gotten ourselves into.And I can only imagine the stress being felt in this family, where the arrival of triplets - in addition to a two-year-old boy - would have likely felt overwhelming at times.But no amount of strain should ever excuse a parent for harming their children.It will be a long time before I can get the horrible description of the triplets' injuries out of my head. They suffered a combined 19 broken bones and, in the words of their own father, likely would have ended up being murdered if not for police intervention.Crown attorney Jennifer Mann told court the man’s disconnect with his children was painfully obvious — he didn’t even know their birthdate and said he couldn’t tell them apart.“They’re just A, B and C to me,” he told police.He admitted to having a “horrible” temper and said their constant crying caused him to lash out. But he admits even little things — such as bad radio programs or even people staring at him — can set him off.“It doesn’t take much,” he said.The Crown now wants him to serve another 18 months in jail, in addition to nine months he’s already spent behind bars since his arrest.He is seeking to be released immediately. His lawyer will make submissions on Monday, and is expected to provide a laundry list of apparently explanations for his client's behaviour.The soldier will apparently cite a two-month stint in Kandahar in 2006 that may have left him suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.Family members told me last year the man — who works in maintenance and didn’t see any front-line duty — had trouble sleeping since his return.They also came forward to complain they had made repeated pleas for child-care assistance from the province and Canadian Forces that fell on deaf ears.The Crown admits there was a delay in getting respite care to the couple but said the father must ultimately take responsibility for his actions, which includes turning down other offers of assistance.The man also told police he’d previously abused his two-year-old son as a baby — incidents which would have pre-dated his trip to Afghanistan.It will be interesting to see what the judge decides to do with this case. Clearly the children are now out of harms way and apparently showing no long-term symptoms from their injuries. But should the father spend some more time behind bars?And what about his status with the Military? They have continued to support him since his arrest, including offering to have him stay on the Winnipeg base under 24-hour supervision if he were to be released on bail. A judge refused.Is he still fit to serve the country with "honour"?www.mikeoncrime.com
  • Did school go too far to make a point with students?

    Fascinating story came across the news wire today.I've always been an advocate of trying something different, something unique, to get a message across - especially when it's clear traditional methods aren't working.And as I've written before in this space, I'll never understand why some people just snub their noses at the risks associated with drinking driving.That being said, I'm not sure how I feel about the following. Should we be cheering school officials for "thinking outside the box" - or did they cross the proverbial line with their approach?Have a read, and post your thoughts below. We'll discuss this on my national radio show Sunday evening.OCEANSIDE, California (AP) — On a Monday morning last month, highway patrol officers visited 20 classrooms at El Camino High School to announce some horrible news: Several students had been killed in car wrecks over the weekend.Classmates wept. Some became hysterical.A few hours and many tears later, though, the pain turned to fury when the teenagers learned that it was all a hoax, a scared-straight exercise designed by school officials to dramatize the consequences of drinking and driving.As seniors prepare for graduation parties Friday, school officials in the largely prosperous San Diego, California, suburb are defending themselves against allegations that they went too far.At school assemblies, some students held posters that read, “Death is real. Don’t play with our emotions.”Michelle de Gracia, 16, was in physics class when an officer announced that her missing classmate David, a popular basketball player, had died instantly after being rear-ended by a drunken driver. She said she felt nauseated but was too stunned to cry.“They got the shock they wanted,” she said.Some of her classmates became extremely upset, prompting the teacher to tell them immediately that it was all staged.“People started yelling at the teacher,” she said. “It was pretty hectic.”Others, including many who heard the news of the 26 deaths between classes, were left in the dark until the missing students reappeared hours later.“You feel betrayed by your teachers and administrators, these people you trust,” said 15-year-old Carolyn Magos. “But then I felt selfish for feeling that way, because, I mean, if it saves one life, it’s worth it.”Officials at the 3,100-student school defended the program.“They were traumatized, but we wanted them to be traumatized,” said guidance counselor Lori Tauber, who helped organize the shocking exercise and got dozens of students to participate. “That’s how they get the message.”The plan was to tell the truth to the students at an assembly later in the day. But word that it was all a hoax began to spread before the gathering. Tauber said some counselors and administrators revealed the truth to calm some students who had become upset.Oceanside Schools Superintendent Larry Perondi said he fielded only a few calls from parents, and the PTA chapter said it had not heard any complaints. Perondi said the program would be revised, but he would not say how. And he said he was glad that students seemed to have gotten the message.“We did this in earnest,” he said. “This was not done to be a prankster.” www.mikeoncrime.com
  • Good Samaritans, Bad Samaritans

    What would you do if you witnessed a crime unfolding right in front of you? Of if you saw someone who was in need of immediate help?Would you dial 911 and just let the authorities handle it? Would you try and stop the bad guy or help the victim? Or would you simply turn a blind eye and do nothing?Before you answer, consider the following two cases.*****bourque1.jpg Amanda Bourque may be nine months pregnant, but she wasn't going to let that stop her from doing the right thing.And to the 30-year-old Tecumseh, Ontario woman, that meant stopping a suspect drunk driver for wreaking any more havoc in her hometown.As Bourque told a national radio audience on my "Crime and Punishment" radio show Sunday night, she has no regrets about her actions last week.She was driving to her work, around noon, when she caught a glimpse of a car in her rear-view mirror that immediately set off warning bells.The male driver was all over the road and eventually took out a string of garbage cans, including one flattened container still being dragged under his car.Bourque, who didn't have a cell phone, pulled over and let the maniac pass.I suggested to her Sunday that this is where most people would have ended their involvement.Bourque had other ideas. She stepped on the gas and gave chase, leaning on her horn in an attempt to get the driver to pull over (and warn other motorists).She watched in horror as he veered into oncoming traffic, narrowly missing hitting another car head-on. Finally, he turned into the parking lot of a convenience store, went up over the curb, over the sidewalk, over the grass, over another curb before coming to rest in a parking stall.Bourque began screaming at the man, letting him know he'd nearly killed people on the road. She also told him the police would likely be coming shortly.That prompted the pan to back up, hit a brick wall and take off again.Bourque wasn't going to give up.She continued to follow and honk and pray - then finally got the chance to act when he slammed into the back of a parked car at a stop sign. Nobody was injured.Bourque used her own car to box the man in, holding him until police arrived moments later and took the 54-year-old driver into custody. He's now charged with being impaired."She probably saved a life that day," one caller to the radio show said Sunday.Another interesting aspect of the case is the reaction from police, who normally pooh-pooh (at least publicly) the notion of taking matters into your own hands.Const. Janet Hayes said she’ll nominate Bourque for a public service award, saying the woman put herself and her baby at risk to save the lives of others, and not everyone would do that.“Here is a woman who has a lot at stake and she’s willing to take the risk to herself and unborn child to do the right thing, to save a life,” she told the Windsor Star. “She’s a true hero.”Bourque told me she wasn't trying to be a hero - she was just doing what she hoped any other citizen would."If I would have seen in the paper that somebody got killed, or a mother and her two children were in a bad accident because of this guy, and I just turned my back, there is no way I’d ever be able to sleep. Never," she told the Star.Her story is a refreshing reminder that there are still some very good people in this world - especially in light of the following story.*****ALeqM5gYkySR-2hX8ILyLpXZIYgSTfQsnQ.jpg The 78-year-old man lay critically injured on the road, his frail body broken after being hit by a car seconds earlier which they sped away without stopping.Perhaps even more shocking than last week's tragic hit-and-run in Hartford is what happened next.Nothing.Surveillance cameras which captured Angel Arce Torres being mowed down also revealed another disturbing sight - numerous cars zooming past and bystanders simply staring at Torres from the sidewalk without going anywhere near him.“We no longer have a moral compass," a grim-faced police Chief Daryl Roberts told reporters last week upon releasing the videos to the public.Police did admit they received a handful of 911 emergency calls made shortly after the senior was hit. They released portions of two calls on Friday.“Send an ambulance quick, quick, quick, he’s bleeding hard,” one man implores an emergency operator.Although it's nice to know a few people felt moved enough to dial for help, it still doesn't explain the shocking non-reaction from everyone at the scene.The government has now offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the motorists involved in the accident.As some calls to "Crime and Punishment" suggested Sunday, they may want to throw in some additional funds for anyone who can find out where that missing "moral compass" has gone.*****Two very different cases. And two very different reactions.What prompted Amanda Bourque to take such an active role in her situation while those in Hartford seemingly viewed getting involved as a major inconvenience.If anything, Bourque had much more to fear - she's about to give birth and was chasing down a dangerous driver. What could the people of Connecticut been afraid of by approaching the injured man??This issue runs much deeper than these two examples, of course. And by no means is it as simple as saying "Canadians are more caring than Americans."We've all seen and heard plenty of homegrown stories where people showed a glaring indifference, or worse, in similar situations.I've personally covered several trials in the past year alone where lack of witness co-operation mean the suspect walked. Of course, there are many others cases which never even made it to court for similar reasons.Why is this?Is it the fact many people are simply self-absorbed and can't be bothered to care about anyone other than those in their immediate world?Is it a product of the Internet world we now live in, where actual human connections have taken a backseat to the virtual variety?Is it because of frustrations with the justice system, where people think getting involved will be more trouble than its worth and simply lead to years of legal headaches with no satisfactory conclusion?All I know is this.Amanda Bourque said she couldn't have slept at night had she just kept on driving.I wonder how the people who refused to help the elderly hit-and-run victim are sleeping these days?www.mikeoncrime.com
  • Hot topics - Vic Toews, animal abuse, Paul Bernardo and too much information?

    I've got a new Jury Poll up on my website - www.mikeoncrime.com - which asks visitors whether they think Manitoba senior MP Vic Toews would make a good judge.Forget for a moment that Toews in on the record bashing so-called patronage appointments, and now may be in line to receive one himself.Forget for a moment that Toews' personal life is now the subject of ongoing court proceedings (his wife of 25 years has filed for divorce) as well as all sorts of tawdry discussion which might have some questioning how a man who buttered his bread preaching "family values" could be anything but a hypocrite.Bottom line - would Toews be a good fit behind the bench? So far the vote is running pretty close. I'll leave the question up for a couple more days, so make sure to cast your vote.*****So two Alberta teens have pleaded guilty to breaking into a home over the Christmas break, vandalizing it and then killing the family's cat by sticking it in a microwave oven for 10 minutes.Brutal. Senseless. Horrific. All those words - and more - come to mind.Here's another word you're going to be hearing soon in connection with this case - pathetic.As in, the sentences these two savages will receive next month will be pathetic.How could they not be?We know that sentences involving animal cruelty are already light enough - with beloved pets treated as nothing more than property under Canadian law.And we know that the Youth Criminal Justice Act doesn't exactly leave offenders shaking in their sneakers. So, combine these two factors and you have a recipe for a good ol' slap on the wrist.Anyone out there disagree?And what to make of these two teens and their prospects for a bright future?I once read that the majority of serial killers started off at a young age abusing animals. That's not to say these kids will grow up to be mass murderers. But you can't help but worry where they go from here after sadistically torturing and killing something so innocent.*****A judge has agreed to allow media outlets get copies of a 2007 interview with convicted killer and rapist Paul Bernardo.The 31-minute tape - which the judge called more "boring" than "chilling" - involves questioning of Bernardo about the unsolved killing of student Elizabeth Bain.We're likely to be inundated with video clips, still photos and soundbites in the coming days and weeks.How do you feel about that?Is this another slap in the face to the families of Bernardo's victims that he is continuing to grab headlines so long after the fact?Or is there a legitimate value to putting this out there for public consumption?More importantly, will you watch it? Are you curious to see what Bernardo now looks like, how jail appears to be treating him, what he says and how he says it? Or will you just turn away, change the channel?*****Finally, on the topic of whether the media is "going too far", I wonder what you think of the latest bombshell revelation surrounding the horrific kidnapping and murder of Quebec political aide Nancy Michaud?As you may have heard, the suspect, Francis Proulx, has been hit with additional charges of necrophilia and sexual assault.That takes an already terrible tragedy and adds yet another gruesome layer to it.From what I've seen so far, the media have carefully stickhandled around this by simply reporting the new charges and not going much further. No doubt this is out of respect for the impact this must be having on Michaud's friends and family member.But the issue is bound to come up again - likely in more graphic detail - if and when the case goes to trial and/or sentencing.I suspect there will be plenty of intense debates in newsrooms around the country - including mine - about how much information to publish about the specifics of the case.This isn't the first case to generate these kinds of discussions, and sadly, it won't be the last.But I'm always curious what the masses think about our role in these types of situations. How much is too much? Or does the public's right to know trump any other concerns?Feel free to discuss any, or all, of the above topics amongst yourselves.
  • What a week!

    Where to begin?It's hard to believe how many major crime and justice stories came out of Winnipeg last week. I'd be hard-pressed to find a busier five-day stretch in my 13-year career. It felt like a month's worth of news happening all at once.Here's a quick synopsis of just the stories I was involved with, along with my own two cents (and links to the various stories in case they went by you in a blur!)1) Arrest made in Beverly Rowbotham murder case - Finally, after nearly eight long years, the development everyone has been waiting for. Now the focus moves to the courts, where Mark Stobbe vows to fight to prove his innocence.2) Arrest made in Joel and Maggy Labossiere murder case - It took Winnipeg police just a few weeks to nab a suspect in one of the most sadistic killings in recent city history. And the suspect, Kelly Clarke, is no stranger to police or myself, as I've previously covered his numerous court cases. The investigation continues and more arrests could be coming.3) Major developments in Adam Anhang murder case - Some real twists and turns to this international mystery. We learned this week that a new suspect had emerged and confessed to killing the ex-Winnipeg millionaire in Puerto Rico - and also implicated Anhang's estranged wife. Now comes word of more potential arrests.4) Police sexually assaulted me, criminal claims - A touchy story for sure, and the kind we don't often write about. We get calls on a frequent basis from people claiming the cops attacked them. The vast majority never see the light of day, because the people haven't filed an official Law Enforcement Review Agency complaint, won't allow their name and photo to be published, or refuse to disclose other key information. In the case of Leon Vermette, he met all of these criteria, and so we told his story - along with getting extensive police reaction through the Crown which disputed what he said. It was controversial, for sure. But also fair and balanced. And that's all we can do. We'll now follow it through to the end.5) Jury hung, mistrial declared in triplet killing - For the second time, emotional jurors were unable to reach a verdict in the case against Michelle Camire. Now the Crown says they will pursue a third trial. Strong feelings on both sides of this one came in through phone calls and e-mails this week. Clearly the public is divided as the jurors.6) Former Hells president gets 13 years in prison - The rise and fall of Ernie Dew was completed this week when he received a major jail sentence for selling drugs to his former friend turned police agent, Franco Atanasovic. It just shows that in the world of organized crime, you can't trust anyone.7) Convicted killer sneaks into Canada to meet Internet girlfriend - Finally, something a little lighter. Had some fun with this exclusive, in which we told you of a American who followed his heart to Winnipeg - but ended up in prison. "Love makes you stupid," his lawyer told court. The man will be deported once his sentence is complete. One question - what's with the woman who fell for this guy?? I guess nice guys truly do finish last!8) Mom guilty of corrupting children - A terrible story about a mother who disregarded the needs of her children and put them in a horrendous position inside an inner-city crackhouse where they were deprived of many things - including food - while being exposed to the worst of society.9) U of M wrestler acquitted - Another real "talker" with a controversial ending. A judge ruled against a young woman who claimed, at the age of 15, that she was sexually assaulted by a much older peer while both were training in a university wrestling program. The case essentially led to the collapse of the program and has clearly left a bitter taste in many mouths.10) Judge decries street violence in Winnipeg - Associate Chief Justice Jeffrey Oliphant, always a straight-shooter, pulled no punches when he found a man guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years. Oliphant said the case - which involved a stabbing outside a downtown bar - is yet another tragic example of the kind of senseless violence which has become all too common in our city.11) Accused deadly drug dealer gets bail - A man charged with dispensing a lethal dose of morphine to a young woman was freed from the Remand Centre, despite objections from the Crown. And while we can't tell you specifics of the hearing because of a publication ban, this first-of-its kind case in Manitoba promises to be a doozy if and when it gets to trial.12) Nigerian scam artist gets prison sentence, faces deporation - So let's get this straight. Canadians are going to pay for this guy - who bilked a retired Winnipeg doctor of more than $35,000 in an elaborate e-mail scam - to spend up to 30-months in jail, only to them immediately send him packing once he's done. Why can't we just save the money and kick him out of the country immediately??Of course, those were just the stories I was personally invovled with reporting on.We also had homicides number 16 and 17 in Winnipeg, the latest craziness involving police being forced to shoot at car thieves, reports of a CFS worker being busted for drug posession while having a child in his car, RCMP vowing to catch the arsonist who burned down a police officer's trailer in a remote reserve, a woman accused of running over and killing a family member while driving drunk, a distraught teen girl speaking out about an unprovoked attack by a large mob of young women, a woman who was critically injured in a sexual assault, Winnipeg police launching an investigation into Facebook photos showing a man lighting a cigarette with an officer's Taser, and a woman sentenced for exposing herself to young children.Did I miss anything? Actually, plenty. Just take a walk through the downtown Law Courts of any given day and there's non-stop action going on in more than a dozen courtrooms. The stories I file on a daily basis are barely scratching the surface of what's actually happening. Same goes for the police beat, where only a handful of incidents ever get reported on.Yet, the reality is the public seems to want as much information on these types of stories as it can get. Just take a look at the daily "Top 10" story list on the Free Press website, where stories of murder and mayhem are always among the most read.I'm going to take a few days now to catch my breath! In the meantime, feel free to discuss any of these stories and issues below.www.mikeoncrime.com
  • A sad picture is worth 1,000 words

    280-stab.jpgThis picture, taken by Free Press staffer Boris Minkevich, jumped off the page for me today and really got me thinking.We all know that inner-city violence is a major issue in Winnipeg. Look no further than this past weekend, when two more people lost their lives, bringing the city's homicide total to an alarming 17 before the leaves are barely on the trees yet.But what got to me about the powerful image above was looking at the group of children who are standing behind the police tape as investigators probe the latest senseless death.I wonder what's going through their minds?Are they scared about what they are seeing in their neighbourhood, wondering what the future might hold?Or are they immune from this type of fear and simply drawn to the scene, likes moths to a light, because it is so familiar to them?What do you think?www.mikeoncrime.com
  • Round 4

    After a real solid first round (7/8), a terrible second round (1/4) and a perfect third round (2/2), I'm now left with picking the winner of a very intriguing match-up in the Stanley Cup final.I candidly admit Pittsburgh and Detroit aren't the two teams I expected to be battling in the final. Those would be San Jose and the New York Rangers.Still, 1014 isn't too shabby. And I fully expect to make it 1115 once all is said in done!So, without further delay, here goes...STANLEY CUP FINALDetroit vs Pittsburgh - Detroit in 7
  • Is crack addict a hero?

    Just when you think you've seen it all, heard it all, and the stories filtering through our court system can't get any worse...As you may have read in Wednesday's Free Press, I had the unfortunate task of covering a horrendous sentencing hearing this week for a 31-year-old woman who admitted to stashing drugs and a gun inside her North-end home.What really made this story so tragic was the fact two girls - aged five and eight - were living in the same home.Actually, they were more like suriving in the same home. Barely.As we heard in court, the girls were forced to sleep on the floor, right next to several cats and a litterbox overflowing with feces.They had not a single toy to play with in the home, or apparently a single morsel of food. That's because their aunt was using a cooler to store her sawed off shotgun and had no fridge.The children's beds had been stripped down for parts, the mattresses being used by junkies to shoot up and smoke up in other parts of the home.When police finally arrived to rescue them from this Hell on Earth, the girls burst into tears and were "begging" for food, court was told.As sick, twisted and depressing as this story is, there's another aspect to it that we shouldn't overlook and which at least offers a glimmer of hope in an otherwise tragic story.A crack-addict, who spent a couple days getting high inside the home, was apparently so disgusted by what he saw that he felt compelled to go to police.What does it tell you when a stranger desperate for his next fix apparently cares more about these children than their own aunt (or mother, for that matter - what was she thinking leaving her two kids alone with her sister, who clearly can't even take care of herself).A colleague at the Free Press had an interesting take on this story. She believes the addict is a "hero". It's hard to disagree, considering the children would have likely continued to suffer if not for his help.Now, the kids are in CFS care and hopefully surrounded by a loving, nurturing environment. Let's hope they haven't suffered irreperable damage as a result of exposure to such a horrendous upbringing.And let's hope there are other people out there, just like the crack addict, who despite their own personal struggles can still recognize a child in need of help and then do something about it.God knows there are far too many kids out there who could use a Guardian Angel.www.mikeoncrime.com
  • 35 years for spitting at a police officer!?

    You've got to be kidding me.THE ASSOCIATED PRESSDALLAS — An HIV-positive man convicted of spitting into the eye and mouth of a Dallas police officer has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.Because a jury found that Willie Campbell used his saliva as a deadly weapon, the 42-year-old will have to serve half his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.Campbell was being arrested in May 2006 for public intoxication when he began resisting and kicking inside the patrol car, Dallas police office Dan Waller testified.Campbell was convicted of harassment of a public servant.
  • The war on drugs

    Steven Prance was ready to conquer the world.The Winnipeg high school football star had a full-time job, loving girlfriend and a strong, supportive family.Then along came a so-called “friend” with an offer that was too tempting to resist - allow for some goods to be stashed in his apartment in exchange for some quick cash.Prance, 22, is now the one paying a steep price.He pleaded guilty to drug possession charges this week - and was promptly sentenced to five years in prison.Prance - who had no prior criminal record and wasn’t a drug user or trafficker - left court in handcuffs to begin serving his sentence while his girlfriend and nearly one-year-old son looked on.A tipster led investigators to Prance’s home in December 2006, where two kilograms of cocaine and three kilograms of marijuana were found hidden inside. Total street value is pegged at more than $150,000.“This was not the wisest decision. He saw an easy way to make a quick score. It is probably something Steven will regret all the rest of his days,” defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg told court.No kidding.Prance is just the latest in a long line of people to parade through the courthouse, their lives either in shambles or completely ruined as a result of drugs.I've said it before and I'll say it again. There isn't a single bigger problem in the city of Winnipeg these days than the prevalance of drugs, especially crack cocaine.Nearly every crime that is committed - from your car getting stolen, house getting broken into or local gas station being robbed - can be either directly or indirectly traced back to drugs.Drug abuse knows no boundaries. It's happening in the inner-city, in the suburbs, in the country. It's affecting the poor, the middle-class, the rich. It's hurting people who grew up in broken families and people who grew up in strong, supportive families.The wide-reaching impact was on display Tuesday night during the emotional "T.J.s Gift - A Gala Evening" fundraiser in Winnipeg.Several hundred people from all walks of life - including politicians, police officers, social workers, school teachers and students - came together to remember a young man whose life ended violently because of his involvement in the drug subculture. (Click HERE for previous blog post on the event)We also heard from a tremendously brave young man, a guest speaker who told the hushed crowd how he nearly died of a drug overdose last summer and spent two months in a coma.Now he's got a second chance at life, and he's using it to help educate others. Just as the wonderful family of T.J. Wiebe have devoted their efforts to helping others in their slain son's memory.Here's an idea. Let's use this forum to share your own experiences with drugs - either personally, or involving a family member, friend, neighbour. When did the problem begin? And how did it end - if at all? And what ideas do you have for dealing with the broader problem society is facing?Let's face it. Longer jail sentences (which we are indeed seeing these days when drugs are involved) can only go so far. Because putting one dealer behind bars only opens the door for another to swoop in and make some extra cash.Until you actually start dealing with the demand for drugs, there will always be people willing to risk their freedom - however stiff the penalties - in order to come up with the supply.The Wiebe family have a great thing going with T.J.s Gift. But I believe we can all do more to make our streets and communities safer.www.mikeoncrime.com
  • Kids apparently have too much free time on their hands

    As if the non-stop flood of local stories about kids as young as five setting fires and chronic teen car thieves using city streets as their personal drag-strips weren't enough...Teens tell police they converted skull into bongHOUSTON, Texas (AP) -- Three teenagers were arrested after two of them told police they dug up a secluded grave north of Houston, removed the skull from the coffin and converted it into a marijuana bong.Police found a grave in the city of Humble that had been disturbed, but were still investigating the rest of the teens' story, Houston police Sgt. John Chomiak said.Kevin Wade Jones, 17, and Matthew Richard Gonzalez, 17, both of Kingwood, were arrested Wednesday night and were being held on misdemeanor charges of abuse of a corpse, Chomiak said. The juvenile was referred to the Harris County juvenile justice system.A woman who answered the phone at Gonzalez's home declined comment. A telephone number for Jones could not immediately be found, and it wasn't clear from court records if either had an attorney.Police were interviewing Jones about the use of a stolen debit card when he told them about the grave theft, which purportedly occurred around March 15, according to court documents. Asked why Jones would volunteer such a story, Chomiak said, "We can only speculate and guess to what goes on in the criminal mind."Gonzalez confirmed the story to investigators in a follow-up interview. Police were led to a heavily wooded site in Humble where they found a knocked-over headstone and water-filled hole more than 4 feet deep. At the time, the muddy water did not allow police to see if the coffin had been disturbed."They dug into this gravesite and that was enough to warrant the abuse of corpse charge," Chomiak said. "There has to be further investigation into the actual gravesite."Police believe the grave is that of an 11-year-old boy who died in 1921. Preliminary reports indicate it was part of a 19th-century veterans cemetery, Chomiak said. While residents in the area knew of the cemetery's existence, it did not appear to be maintained.
  • Round Three

    Perhaps I should just stick to my day job.After a very promising first round in which I picked 7 of the 8 Stanley Cup playoff winners, my second round picks fizzled big time.Of the four series, I only got one right. And the two teams I had figured to be playing for Lord Stanley - San Jose and the New York Ranrgers - are now competing for tee times.However, I'm still looking at at the bright side - I'm 8 for 12 overall, and planning to run the table with my remaining selections.So, here goes.EASTERN CONFERENCE Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia - Pittsburgh in 7WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALDetroit vs Dallas - Detroit in 6www.mikeoncrime.com
  • T.J'S gift

    tjwiebe.jpg I never had the pleasure of meeting T.J. Wiebe - but I've learned a lot about the young man over the past few years from his two amazing parents, Floyd and Karen.They are two of the most honest, dedicated and caring people you can meet - which makes it even more shocking that their son fell victim to drugs, then ultimately violence that cost him his life.T.J. was just 20-years-old when he was lured by a group of drug associates outside the city, injected with a syringe, strangled, stabbed and left to die in a snowbank in January 2003.Three young men have been convicted of his slaying and are in prison, while the alleged ringleader of the plot -- a youth -- was acquitted at trial when the others refused to testify.His tragic case should be an eye-opener for all families - drugs don't discriminate, and neither does the violence that often is associated with the drug trade.Floyd and Karen did everything they could to help their son - and yet he still became a grim statistic.The Wiebe's don't want T.J.'s death to be in vain.And so the couple created the T.J. Wiebe Education and Awareness Fund as a means of keeping his memory alive and steering others away from the dangerous lifestyle that reeled him in.Last year, in an effort to kickstart donations, they launched the first-ever "T.J's Gift - A Gala Evening." By all accounts it was a major success.418t.jpg The family raised $54,000 for the fund, which was turned over to the Louis Riel School Division to provide students access to the fund for peer education and drug awareness projects.This year, all Winnipeg school divisions can tap into the proceeds.Getting funding for a project -- be it a school play, a lecture series or a science project -- comes with a major commitment.Every potential recipient must take a “drug free oath” in which they vow to live a clean lifestyle and lobby others to do the same. The family believes peer education is the most effective way of getting the message through to young people.The second annual "T.J's Gift - A Gala Evening" is set for next Tuesday, May 13 at Canad Inns Polo Park.I'll be there, along with some of my colleagues from the Free Press.Capacity for the Gala is 670 people but there are still tickets available. Singles are $85 (a tax receipt will be issued for a portion) while corporate tables of 10 can be had for $1,100.The evening includes both a live and silent auction, five-course gourmet dinner and dancing to the music of Free Ride. The Wiebe’s will also speak to the crown and video tributes will be aired.Tickets can be had by going to www.tjsgift.com or contacting Floyd Wiebe directly at 229-9633 or by e-mail at floyd@tjsgift.com.Hope to see you there for this very worthy cause.www.mikeoncrime.com
  • Where's the outrage?

    At least three children have been flown to Winnipeg in recent days from the remote northern reserve of Shamattawa for treatment of injuries/conditions that should have us all hanging our heads in shame.First up was a nine-year-old girl last weekend, who had apparently attempted suicide and was in need of immediate medical care. I repeat - a nine-year-old girl tried to end her life.Next was a patient described by paramedics as a "chronic sniffer" suffering the devastating physical and mental consequences of ingensting solvents into their system. He is 13-years-old.Finally, earlier today another little girl was rushed to the Children's Hospital to be treated for an overdose. Not sure of her exact age, but I'm told she was very young.According to federal stats, Shamattawa is home to about 1,100 people - roughly the population of a typical Winnipeg high school. Of course, we can assume there are more children in a school then on the reserve, as that 1,100 includes residents of all ages.Now put this in perspective.What do you think the reaction would be - from politicians, police, the media, the public - if three Winnipeg students in one school had to be rushed to hospital as a result of drug overdoses/solvent abusee/suicide attempts in the span of just a few days.Can you say "mass hysteria"?? There'd be shock, outrage, anger, confusion, internal reviews, studies, funding announcements, press conferences, etc.Now compare that with what is happening way up north.Clearly Shamattawa is a community in crisis. And yet despite the fact this is in our "own backyard", we are hearing nothing but silence while broken child after broken child gets parachuted out of the community for medical intervention.Here's some questions that are haunting me right now.-How many kids are not even making it out of Shamattawa for care? (as in, they couldn't be saved).-What happens to those who do get treatment? Are they simply being sent back into the same ugly situation?-How many other children are currently deemed to be "at-risk" in the community?-What other resrouces in Shamattawa are needed right now to deal with what's going on?-What long-term plans are in place to deal with the chronic issues plaguing the community?-Are Aboriginal leaders in this province doing anything about this?-Are most provincial politicians even aware of what's going on?-Is this a tragic example of "out of sight, out of mind"?-How many other isolated communities are facing similar situations right now?The only reason I even know about these three most recent incidents is because of information through a source. And the sad reality is these cases are just a "snapshot" of a much bigger picture, one that is both ugly and sad.There are no quick and easy solutions here - although I would suggest that any child found to be in imminent danger should be placed in a stable, safe environment as quickly as possible.As for the long-term, I don't know what can be done. I wish I did. But we're talking about horrific cycles of poverty, neglect, abuse and isolation that can't simply be broken.I just know that it's wrong to ignore what's going on. And that talking about the problem is better then pretending it doesn't exist.www.mikeoncrime.comGOT A COMMENT? POST IT BELOW.
  • Round Two

    Not too shabby, if I do say so myself...The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs are over and your local crime scribe was able to pick seven of the eight series winners. (Only the Ducks being shot down by the Stars kept me from perfection)Now on to the second round, where the teams will be hard-pressed to match the intensity and excitement of the first two glorious weeks.Here's how I see things shaping up.WESTERN CONFERENCEDetroit vs Colorado - Detroit in 5San Jose vs Dallas - San Jose in 7EASTERN CONFERENCEMontreal vs Philadelphia - Montreal in 6Pittsburgh vs New York Rangers - New York Rangers in 6www.mikeoncrime.com
  • Things could always be worse - we could be Chicago

    There's been a lot of concern in the past few day's about Winnipeg's soaring homicide rate, especially following this weekend's incredibly tragic double-slaying of Joel and Maggie Labossiere inside their St. Vital home and the brutal killing of Shannon Scromeda inside her Elmwood residence.In both cases, young children were also in the home.With the snow barely melted and already 14 killings in the books - the same number as Toronto - Winnipeg is on pace for a record-setting year.Perhaps of even greater concern is the kinds of murders we are seeing - and the fact so many of them are unsolved as of right now.That's a direct reflection on the increasing amount of gang-related crime, and the fact potential witnesses to many of these cases don't seem very eager to share what they know with police.It's the kind of situation which can quickly escalate out of control.Just look at what's happening in Chicago.Nine people were killed in 36 separate shootings this past weekend, a staggering number even by U.S. major city standards.According to an Associated Press article, community leaders say the violence is part of a deadly breakdown in discipline among gang members after a crackdown over the past few years put many of their leaders behind bars."The older guys, in the past, looked out for the little ones. Now they're all locked up," Nick Stames, a social studies teacher at Crane Tech High School on the city's gang-ridden West Side, told AP."There's no sense of discipline in the projects," he added. "Everybody's doing their own thing."Let's hope police and prosecutors in Winnipeg are able to do their "thing" before the bad guys truly take over the city.www.mikeoncrime.com
  • Domestic distress

    Domestic absuse is nothing to joke about. We've all heard and read about the worst-case scenarios, where an argument escalates into violence and ends in tragedy.pregnant0411_2.jpg Police are instructed to treat each and every complaint seriously - and with good measure. It's probably better to over-react than to do nothing at all and have it come back to haunt you later.So with this in mind, I ask you today for your thoughts on the troubling case of Noelley Mowatt.To briefly recap:Mowatt called Toronto police last year following an argument with her boyfriend and claimed he'd physically assaulted her. Not surprisingly, police responded and charged the man.As the case wound its way through court, Mowatt changed her tune and made it clear she no longer wanted to proceed. She vowed not to show up in court.Police and justice officials were concerned - likely for her own safety more than anything - and decided to take some pretty unusual steps to secure her appearance.They got a material witness warrant and arrested her.The case became a big deal earlier this month, especially after it was revealed Mowatt was due to give birth any day. Mowatt spent about a week behind bars, then appeared in court and did exactly what she said she would.She claimed her boyfriend hadn't touched her and that she lied by originally claiming he had."I didn't need any help and I wasn't in danger," Mowatt said from the witness stand. "I wanted to punish him."The case has now been adjourned, Mowatt has been released on bail and the accused will likely walk.Mowatt's lawyer, Lydia Riva, joined me on my national radio show this past Sunday. She is furious at what justice officials did to her very pregnant client, saying it was "totally unjust" and not the way a victim of abuse victim should be treated.Of course, Mowatt now claims she is NOT a victim of abuse.One of two things has likely happened here.1) Mowatt is playing the system like a fiddle and made a false claim in order to "get back" at her boyfriend following a fight. Knowing police take these matters seriously, she probably wouldn't be the first person to cry wolf and use the law as a weapon of sorts.2) Mowatt is a true victim, caught in the vicious cycle of domestic abuse we see all too often. She's probably scared, maybe has even been threatened not to testify.The question is, which of these scenarios is true. And how would we ever truly know, given the fact this case (like the majority of domestic-related incidents) is a he-said/she-said with no independent witnesses.A few other important questions to consider.Did police and justice officials cross the line by locking Mowatt up?Should the assault charges simply have been dropped once Mowatt refused to testify?If so, would the same officials who made that decision have come under intense attack if Mowatt was found seriously assaulted, or even dead, days, weeks or months later?Should Mowatt now face charges for mischief, perjury or obstruction of justice, since she has said under oath she lied to police?Lots to think about, and no easy answers from my perspective. Let's get a discussion going - post your thoughts below. We'll also chat more about this on this Sunday's radio show.

About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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