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News >  Nation/World

Canadians mourn slain officers

Beth Duff-Brown Associated Press

TORONTO – A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” and flags flew at half-staff Friday as Canadians grappled with the deadliest attack on police officers in 120 years, after four Mounties were slain during a raid on a marijuana farm in a rural western hamlet.

The slayings stunned a nation that prides itself on far fewer acts of gun violence than its neighbor to the south.

“Canadians are shocked by this brutality and join me in condemning the violent acts that brought about these deaths,” Prime Minister Paul Martin said. He called for a moment of silence before opening his Liberal Party’s annual conference later Friday.

The four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers had been investigating a farm in Mayerthorpe, a small hamlet of some 1,300 people in western Alberta province.

Spokesman Cpl. Wayne Oakes said the four Mounties and the suspected gunman were found in a Quonset hut on the farm late Thursday. A government source told The Canadian Press the suspect killed himself after shooting the officers.

“The loss of four police officers is unprecedented in recent history,” said Bill Sweeney, commanding officer of the Mounties in Alberta. “I’m told you have to go back to about 1885 … during the Northwest Rebellion to have a loss of this magnitude.”

The Northwest Rebellion was an unsuccessful attempt by indigenous rebels to establish an independent nation in the northwestern frontier.

The Mounties, with their bright red tunics and broad-brimmed Stetsons, are as much a national symbol as a police force. Legend has it that the small Northwest Mounted Police, formed in 1873 to bring order to the Canadian west, wore their scarlet tunics so natives could readily distinguish them from the blue-coated U.S. cavalry.

The suspect was identified by police as 46-year-old James Roszko. Authorities said he had a long criminal record, including the use of illegal firearms and sexual assault.

Oakes said the Mounties were investigating reports of stolen property and marijuana on Roszko’s property.

Sgt. Rick Oncescu said two SWAT teams were called into the area and Mounties from surrounding jurisdictions also responded when the four officers did not respond to radio calls Thursday afternoon.

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