Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 08/2/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
I went looking for a gun Friday.
What I found made the curious death of Andrew Baryluk even more puzzling.
That's because a full day after the police-involved incident, the notoriously tight-lipped Winnipeg Police Service was saying even less than normal. Which says a lot about how sensitive the case is.
What we do know is there were shots fired during the 17-hour siege.
A police news release issued Thursday stated "shortly after 8:20 p.m. shots were fired from within the residence, resulting in officers discharging their firearms."
When my Free Press colleague Mike McIntyre emailed police to ask if they were 100 per cent certain shots were fired from inside the residence and towards officers, the response was terse.
"Refer to news release."
But, even after an autopsy, police won't share how he died.
Not even with his family.
What we also know -- because of McIntyre's reporting -- is the tactical unit suspected early on the 53-year-old was armed when he barricaded himself inside the only home he ever lived in and where he vowed he would rather die than be evicted. We know police suspected he was armed because a relative informed them Baryluk said he wouldn't leave.
And he had a gun.
The relative thought it was a vintage rifle Baryluk's father had owned.
That prompts the obvious question.
Was a firearm found at the Stella Avenue house police finally stormed?
Police won't say.
"Forms part of the investigation," they told McIntyre via email, "and we will not be able to comment at this time."
What we now know, though, is if there was a gun, it wasn't the father's vintage rifle.
I found the rifle Friday at Bill Baryluk's West End house.
Bill said he took it out of his brother's house on Stella Avenue years ago. Then he showed it to me.
Bill had been curious about the location of guns when police called while the standoff on Stella was only a few hours old.
He said police asked him if his brother had any firearms in his house.
Bill didn't know of any.
And the two brothers were close.
They met every Saturday, sometimes over a cold beer in Bill's backyard. Of course it makes sense for police involved in a standoff with an emotionally disturbed person to ask relatives if he had weapons in the house.
What's curious, though, is they asked the same question after the incident was over and Andrew Baryluk was dead.
Bill said two detectives came by and asked again if his brother had guns in house.
You'd think by that time, the police would be telling Bill, not asking him,
I had a question of my own that I emailed police Friday.
"Is the WPS bringing in an outside agency to conduct the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Andrew Baryluk?"
I had to ask, even if the answer was predictable.
"No. The armed and barricaded investigation on Stella is being conducted by the homicide unit. As with any officer-involved shooting investigation, an outside agency will be tasked to review the original investigation."
Police investigating themselves in an officer-related fatality has never been good enough. Reviewing evidence already gathered is no better.
I would have hoped Winnipeg police Chief Devon Clunis would have made an effort to do more than the same old, same old. That he might have followed the lead of the RCMP in the recent shooting in Norway House and called in an out-of-province police agency.
Soon, the Winnipeg Police Service won't have any choice but to give up control of investigating themselves in these kinds of serious officer-related cases.
Not soon enough, though.
Zane Tessler has been the executive director of the province's independent investigations unit for more than a year. The unit was prompted by the unprofessional way police investigated themselves in the death of Crystal Taman. When I reached Tessler Friday afternoon, he was on his way to the dentist for a root canal. I'm sure he would rather have been deep into the Baryluk case.
The problem is the unit has an office, and Tessler has hired managers and support staff, but nearly six years after the unit was created by provincial legislation, it still isn't ready to relieve police of the perceived and real conflict of investigating itself.
And the Selinger government says it won't be until March 2015.
The Baryluk family has a right to be angry about dithering that has caused the delay.
So do those more enlightened members of the Winnipeg Police Service who best understand why it's so needed.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2014 A4
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