Saturday, November 7, 2009

Olympics' Top Cop Helped Blow up Truck at Gustafsen Stand-off

RCMP's Bud Mercer was in the thick of several famous clashes with dissenters. This story, with video of the exploding truck, is first in a series.

By Geoff Dembicki and Bob Mackin, Vancouver 24 hours, 20 Oct 2009,

Bud Mercer pictured rifles aimed at him as he pushed deeper into the forest. A short run behind him, past mid-sized poplars and aspens and scraggly bush, lay the smoking remains of a red pick-up truck, disabled minutes earlier by RCMP explosives. A yellow Labrador retriever was slumped close to it. Two police bullets had cut the dog down as it fled on the rutted gravel road. Mercer feared an ambush in the sparse forest. He strained the leash to keep Lukar, his German shepherd police dog, from running too fast. He was flanked by three other officers. The team squatted close to the forest floor every 12 metres, muscles tense. Within minutes, they broke through the bushes and onto the grassy shoreline of Gustafsen Lake. Mercer saw the two fugitives, stripped to their waists, wading into the water. He went to unclip Lukar, knowing the police dog would attack.

But before he could do it, buzzing, whining bullets ripped through the air above him. He hesitated.

On Sept. 11, 1995, up to 7,000 police gunshots climaxed a month-long standoff with natives in the backwoods of interior B.C. Fifteen people were convicted for their armed defence of sacred land they said was never ceded to Canadian settlers.

Mercer now commands a $491.9 million RCMP-led force, tasked with securing the 2010 Winter Olympics. He's a central figure in the biggest peace-time security operation in Canada's history. When athletes and officials arrive next February, many observers wonder if -- and how -- he'll unleash that force.*

Gustafsen Lake isn't the only high profile clash of law enforcement with dissenters where Bud Mercer played a key role. He was on the frontlines when APEC protesters were pepper-sprayed in 1997. And when tree-sitters tried to stop logging in the Elaho Valley in 2000, Mercer led a team to roust them from their perches. The Tyee and 24 Hours have researched these incidents, interviewing Mercer and many people involved, in order to provide a multi-part, in-depth portrait of the top cop of the 2010 Olympics -- his present duties and past controversies. The story starts 14 years ago, as a rebellion brewed in the Shuswap.


No comments: