James Roszko was a hermit, a gun nut, a convicted pedophile and ultimately a murderer - who also happened to grow pot. So guess where the police, the press and the politicians decided to lay the blame when he gunned four Canadian Mounties in cold blood?

By Ian Mulgrew

It was a cold Thursday morning in northern Alberta, and snow still blanketed most of the prairie. Even if you were looking, you probably wouldn’t have seen the killer moving through dawn’s early light— stealthily approaching his farm’s large corrugated-steel Quonset hut and slipping inside. James Roszko had draped himself in a white sheet to blend in with the winter landscape and pulled his socks over his shoes to avoid leaving tracks. He’d also jammed a 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol down the front of his pants, slung a rifle over his shoulder, and carried at the ready a Heckler & Koch .308-caliber Model 91 semi-automatic assault rifle equipped with a large (and illegal, in Canada) 20-round magazine. The 46-year-old was well camouflaged and even better armed for the ambush to come.

We’ll never know how long he lay in wait. But when four young Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers entered his shed (which among other things concealed a marijuana garden) later that morning, Roszko was in position and ready to kill. Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon, Lionide Johnston and Brock Myrol were mercilessly gunned down before they even knew he was there. But what Roszko didn’t know was that two other Mounties —from the Auto Theft Unit—remained outside, changing into overalls. As he stepped out of the Quonset hut and into the sharp, cold, flat morning light, they drew down on him. The ensuing firefight was brief. Roszko was shot twice in the groin, the police fusillade blowing him back inside the shed. The officers retreated, too, and summoned backup. While they waited, Roszko committed suicide.

By the time the Emergency Response Team secured the area, the reverberations of the single worst loss of life in RCMP history were already shaking a country that cherishes its federal force as a national icon. In his Stetson and scarlet serge, the Mountie remains as much a symbol of Canada as the maple leaf. Surprisingly, though, police and Justice Department officials immediately channeled the nation’s outrage and grief not at the killer, but at those who advocated more liberal marijuana laws and supported the government’s plan to decriminalize pot possession.