Monday, November 10, 2008

Professor Killed When RCMP Ignored Reports of Online Threats

The RCMP apologized to the family of John McKendy on Thursday after admitting it had been warned by a relative three days prior to his murder that his son-in-law was a threat.

Assistant Commissioner Darrell LaFosse, the RCMP's commander of J Division in New Brunswick, Canada told a news conference that an independent review will be launched of the force's handling of the case that led to the slaying of the popular 59-year-old university professor.

A spokesman for the force repeatedly told reporters over the past week that family members hadn't approached the Mounties before the murder with concerns over anyone's safety.

"I have since realized that this is not the case," LaFosse said.

"I have personally apologized to the family on behalf of the RCMP in New Brunswick and I am here today to publicly offer my apology for us saying they did not raise concerns. They did," said LaFosse.

"We were investigating those concerns. Any perception they did not make us aware that there were concerns is false. I offer my apology to them for us saying otherwise."

The assistant commissioner said the force received a complaint from an undisclosed family member on Oct. 27, three days before McKendy was killed in his Douglas home.

The complaint concerned threatening emails and other communication from Nicholas Wade Baker, McKendy's 27-year-old son-in-law, to an undisclosed member of the family.

Police believe McKendy was killed by Baker, who was found dead in a rental car outside a Moncton hotel on Saturday.

McKendy's daughter Laura, who was married to Baker, was also injured in the attack.

News of the emails surfaced Monday when one of McKendy's colleagues at St. Thomas University in Fredericton told reporters about them.

Sociology professor Sylvia Hale, a friend of McKendy's who also teaches at St. Thomas University, said earlier this week the McKendy family had received threatening emails from Baker leading up to the murder and had alerted the RCMP.

LaFosse said the warning from the family member was relayed to an investigator but "was not immediately placed on the RCMP file into the investigation."

"The RCMP media person was unaware of this additional information at the time he gave the interviews," LaFosse said.

Insp. Mike O'Malley, District 2 commanding officer, said it was felt at the time the complaint was made that there was not sufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal investigation.

"Nevertheless, the family's concerns were noted and were added to supplement the ongoing investigation," he said.

Police had been seeking Baker since Oct. 3 on charges of fraud, vehicle theft, and credit card theft.

The stolen vehicle and credit card belonged to Michael McKendy, John's brother. The vehicle was later recovered in Bangor, Maine.

Michael McKendy declined comment on the latest developments Thursday, saying: "We may or may not comment in the future."

John McKendy was a Quaker, and is being remembered as a tireless advocate of social justice and non-violence. A memorial service was held at a Fredericton church Wednesday.

The RCMP issued a formal apology to the family for creating the perception "they did not bring forward concerns to the police."

LaFosse said, in addition to the apology, the entire file on Baker leading up to the murder would also be reviewed to see if it was properly handled by police. An RCMP officer from Prince Edward Island will head the investigation.

Several unanswered questions remain, such as how Baker managed to cross back into Canada despite an alert issued to police agencies and border officials that he was wanted in connection with the stolen vehicle and credit card.

O'Malley said they believed Baker was somewhere in the southern United States, far from the McKendy family, when the email threats were reported. Police said the card was used in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Hale said Thursday she was pleased the RCMP apologized to the family and would review the case.

But she said the police should have taken the email threats more seriously, and the standard protocol for dealing with situations of domestic violence must also be reassessed.

She said the police's response in this case is part of "a very widespread pattern of police non-response to these types of situations."

"The reality is that there was a plethora of emails in the last few weeks that showed very significant harassment," she said.

"By just not treating it serious and not responding, they just didn't take it seriously enough.

"What you want them to do is learn from it and say, 'This was a totally inadequate response to this family's situation.'"‚"

LaFosse said the review would begin shortly and the findings would be made public.


1 comment:

Archana Shekar said...

Nice present incident article.Very sad McKendy.

This article makes us aware of the present day situation.This could happen to anyone so this incident will help us to face that type of situation and over come it.

Archana Shekar
keeping children safe online and offline