Gotcha A..hole

Written by Harold McNeill on November 29th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook


An upside of being a policeman was being afforded the opportunity to get the upper hand on some idiot who cared nothing about the effect his actions had on innocent people. It might be as simple as traffic violation but in many cases, it also involved more serious criminal events.

Perhaps you have at one time experienced the feeling of being screwed around by someone but there was not a damn thing you could do about it? How good it would have felt to turn the tables. Hollywood has made dozens of movies on the subject although most dealt with violent crimes where retribution was meted out by an ‘off the rails citizen’ as in Law Abiding Citizen, or by that ‘no rules apply’ policeman, Dirty Harry.

The case at hand in this story was much tamer but never-the-less a crime that caused considerable anguish for the victim. In this house burglary in south Oak Bay, the owners was away on holidays. The crime was discovered by a neighbor doing a perimter check and although we had no idea what might have been taken, in the master bedroom we noticed a mess on the floor as if a pile of soot had been scattered about1.

When the family returned, they determined that among several items taken was a quantity of heirloom jewelry dating back to the great-great-grandparents on the mother’s side. It was a devastating loss, particularly to the wife as her father, who had recently passed away, had just given her the jewelry before he died. More on that in the story, but first, about the soot on the bedroom floor – it was her father’s ashes. A double whammy.  It was fortunate the ashes had not been vacuumed by the neighbor as we had asked him to leave the home as found in order to assist in the follow-up investigation.

Over the next week, my partner, Det. Sgt Fowler, and I put substantial effort into scanning the Pawn Sheets and shaking down suspects, but nothing came to light. Finally, while ‘squeezing’ a suspect in another case, we learned the burglar, in this case, was currently serving time in the Brannan Lake Youth Detention Centre in Nanaimo. He was inside for a burglary and a car theft in another jurisdiction.

Given our informant was usually reliable, we decided to see if the guy in Brannon Lake would take a ‘freebie’  (a pass on charges) in return for providing a lead on the missing jewelry. We drove to Nanaimo, arranged a meet and from the moment he entered the holding room, the kid directed a stream of expletives our way that would make a biker blush.  The case then fell onto the back burner as we knew he did it, but had no physical proof other than the word of our informant.

Two weeks later we received a tip about a suspect in another case hanging out in a basement suite just off Bay Street near Blanshard. Late one afternoon we scouted the area and while driving down the alley recorded the licence numbers of several vehicles which we then ran through CPIC (Canadian Police Information System) system. Bingo, one vehicle had been recently stolen in Nanaimo after a burglary of the owner’s home.

As we had nothing pressing on our agenda we decided to just sit tight and watch. Not long after dark, we saw a shadow emerge into the alley and enter the stolen 4X4.  When the engine started and the lights came on we roared down the alley, jumped out with guns drawn and shut down the suspect before he could even catch his breath.

After he was removed him from the vehicle and handcuffed, I shone the light in his face, then turned to Garth and said: “You know Garth, there really is a God!” It was our young friend from Brannon Lake. This time the suspect was considerably more subdued than when we first met.  A search of the vehicle revealed a number of items that would likely trace back to a Nanaimo burglary.

We had him solid on possession of a stolen vehicle and suspected some of the property in the vehicle was likely tied to the burglary. The Nanaimo RCMP would no doubt charge him with one or more burglaries in that city. As it seemed he destined to go down on several charges, we decided to try a little horse trading. We told him we would give him a pass on the Oak Bay B&E if he helped us recover the jewelry.

Well, it was a good news and bad news response. The good news, he admitted the burglary and told us he had tossed the jewelry, but then came the bad news – he had tossed it in a dumpster near the 7-11 at Cook and Pandora when he noticed police cars in the area and was afraid of being checked with the jewelry in his pocket.

As three weeks had now passed, it was highly unlikely the jewelry would still be present, but never-the-less we decided to do a little dumpster diving. No luck. It was a disappointing end to the case, but that disappointment was part and parcel of many investigations – nothing like the outcomes on most TV shows.

While Garth and I could never lay claim to being “Dirty Harry” types, we did share several “Gotcha Asshole” moments. The upside on this case, we managed to remove this offender from the streets for a few more months and it had felt ‘soooo’ good to tightly clamp the handcuffs on those thieving wrists…

Harold McNeill

1. While excessive damage during a burglary was not a regular occurrence the occasional culprit seemed bent on destroying property (throwing food around, knocking over plants, urinating or defecating on personal belongings, etc.). In one case on Foul Bay Road, the culprit(s) spent at least a half hour destroying property with the damage mounting into the thousands of dollars. In these cases, it seemed the damage was motivated almost entirely by anger at some perceived wrong. In these cases, it was particularly gratifying to catch the perpetrators and put them behind bars, even if just for a brief period.

(March 17, 2016 271)


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  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]