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Dear John Letter: A Retired Cop’s Lesson in Trusting His Gut

A retired member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recounts how he learned the importance of always trusting his gut after a near brush with death that involves the open road, a lover scorned and a loaded rifle.

By Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 15 years, after which, he worked for the Solicitor General of Canada and the Department of Justice.

“No man chooses evil because it is evil, he only mistakes it for happiness, the good that he seeks”

- Mary Wollstonecraft

When you’re working in the country you don’t have the luxury of having any backup close at hand. The best you can do is to get someone from your detachment that is usually about a half hour away if you’re lucky. Consequently, you survive by the techniques you’ve been taught and what your instincts tell you. The only reason I’m able to write this story today is because I didn’t follow what we were taught, but instead I listened to my inner voice. Actually, the voice that came through to me was so loud and clear that it was difficult not to listen to it. After this incident I began to believe in guardian spirits, and that they are always with us. The problem is that most of the time we are not tuned in or listening to our spirit guides. Myself included. Anyway, this incident happened around 10pm on a summer evening on #2 highway just north of the town of Girvin. If I had followed protocol when stopping that car – I would have been another casualty that our career produces from time to time.

Each day our sub-division radio room along with four others in the province sends out a news broadcast. These broadcasts include all sorts of things that are of interest to all the cars on the road. Well, as luck would have it, I was off the radio and out of the patrol car having supper at a local café when the news broadcast came over the air. I would later encounter an individual named Ken who unbeknownst to me was the subject of the radio room broadcast. The broadcast said to be on the lookout for a white 1970 Chevrolet, and the driver (Ken) was considered armed and dangerous. However, when I look back this on situation now, maybe it was best that I didn’t know what he was all about, because if I had known about him ahead of time, I would have probably reacted differently and the final outcome might have been much different. This was especially true given the fact that I didn’t have any backup close at hand.

Ken was a 23 year old young man living in Yorkton with his parents, while his girlfriend Carol was going to university in Saskatoon. In the beginning Carol would go home to Yorkton and visit with Ken and her parents, but as time went on she made fewer and fewer trips home. Also, Ken and Carol’s relationship started to go downhill and she ended up phoning him less and less. After about a year at the University of Saskatchewan Carol started dating and soon found a new boyfriend. Following her feeling for her new boyfriend she came to the decision that her relationship with Ken was now over.

Instead of going home for the summer Carol decided to stay in Saskatoon and take summer classes so she could finish her degree earlier. It was at this time she decided to draft a Dear John letter stating that she was seeing someone else, and telling Ken that their relationship was over. After writing the letter she mailed it to Ken in Yorkton.

Ken went to the mailbox at his house and was excited at receiving a letter from Carol. It was in the early afternoon and Ken’s parents were away for the day. Upon reading the letter he just couldn’t believe what Carol was saying and got so upset that he flew into a rage and literally trashed his parents’ home. It was probably lucky that his parents weren’t home at the time or else they might have been hurt too. After trashing the house Ken grabbed his father’s .308 caliber rifle and a box of shells. He left the house and got into his white 1970 Chevrolet and headed for Saskatoon. When his parents returned home they called the police immediately. Ken had left a letter telling them that he was on his was to Saskatoon to see Carol.

It was assumed that Ken might possibly kill Carol and her new boyfriend. A number of attempts were made to contact Carol without any success. Going by highway from Yorkton to Saskatoon usually takes about four hours or so depending upon the traffic and route you take. Because of this letter it was felt that Ken was so unstable that he was a risk to anyone who might get in his way. However, as unstable as he was, Ken still had the presence of mind to stay off the major highways. In an effort to avoid the cops he decided to head across country using the grid road system to get to Saskatoon. Depending upon which grid road he took, he could come out almost anywhere south or east of Saskatoon. However, Ken came out onto #2 highway just north of Girvin and in a very a short time later we would meet.

Shortly after eating supper at Carveth’s Esso, and missing the daily broadcast, I started my patrol by heading north on #2 highway. I was checking traffic between Girvin and Davidson at the time. At around 10:30 pm I saw a light colored Chevrolet car weaving on the road ahead of me. I followed him for a short distance and figured it was probably an impaired driver. So, I decided to stop and check the car. I could see the profile of a man behind the driver’s wheel, and when I put the red light on I saw him reach down underneath the front seat. I automatically assumed he was stashing his booze under the seat. A few seconds later the car pulled over onto the shoulder of the road and stopped. The driver appeared to be alone and stayed seated behind the wheel. As I pulled in behind and stopped I left a portion of the patrol car parked slightly to the left so I had some protection from other northbound cars.

At this time my headlights were shining directly into his rear-view mirrors which made it difficult for him to see me approach his car. Normally I would run the plates before hand to see if there was anything outstanding, however this time I didn’t. I got out of the patrol car and was about to walk up to the driver’s door. Just as I was about to take a step towards the Chevrolet a voice came into my head that was so loud and clear, and said, “Don’t go to the car.”

Deep down I realized that something was wrong, but I had to go up to the car anyway. My heart started to race and everything seemed to move in slow motion. I pulled my revolver and kept it at my right side. I decided to approach the passenger’s door instead of going to the driver’s door. Usually, I always go to the driver’s door, but this time my senses told me to be cautious and go to the passenger’s door. Because of the glare from my headlights he was unable to see me approach his car. As I approached the passenger’s door I was instantly filled with anger at what I saw. This guy had a high caliber rifle sitting across his lap with the muzzle pointing towards the driver’s window. I guess that’s what he was reaching for underneath the front seat. It didn’t take much to figure out that if I had walked up to the driver’s door he would have blown a hole in my chest, and in all likelihood I would be dead now.

Well, I didn’t have much time to think and I had to do something quickly before he realized I wasn’t going to the driver’s door. The first thing I did was point my revolver at his head. I only had two options. If the passenger’s door wasn’t open then I would have to shoot him through the window. Secondly, if the door was open then I could attempt to disarm him. It all depended upon whether or not the passenger’s door was open. I knew that my Smith & Wesson .38 special was no match for his high powered rifle, and I would certainly lose if it came to a protracted shootout.

Whatever the case, I would have to move fast and if I had to shoot my intentions were not to wound. With my heart beating wildly, I slowly put my left hand on the handle of the car door while I held my gun pointed at his head in my right hand. The muzzle of the gun was only a couple feet away from his head. With my heart pounding I prayed to God that the door would be open. As I pulled on the handle of the door it came open. Ken tried to swing the rifle around, but it was too big and he wasn’t fast enough. After opening the door I quickly put my gun behind his right ear. At this time I was so friggin angry and I told him to drop the rifle or “I’ll blow your fucking brains out you cocksucker.” He dropped the rifle to the floor and told him to put his hands on the steering wheel – which he did. I was so angry, knowing he would have killed me, at that time I considered putting a bullet in his head anyway. It would have been so easy to do, and the only thing stopping me was wondering if I could have lived with myself after that. I told him to move over to the right side of the car and get on the ground outside. When he was on the ground I put the handcuffs on him and placed him in back seat of the patrol car.

After getting back into the patrol car I advised our sub-division radio room that I had Ken in custody, and he was being taken back to our office and lodged in cells. Gord was our telecoms operator and he told me that Ken had been the subject of the 6 pm broadcast. A provincial wide alert had been issued indicating that he was armed and dangerous. Well, in retrospect that was very clear. Anyway, I told Gord that he could advise the other sub-divisions that Ken had been found and was in custody. Also, I would be contacting Yorkton to see what they were going to do on their end.  After I took Ken back to the office and put him in the cells, I had a little more time to figure out what was going on.

After contacting Yorkton detachment, they advised me that his parents had withdrawn all charges against him, so there was nothing Yorkton detachment could do from their end. On our side all we could do was charge him with having a loaded rifle in a vehicle under the Game Act. He hadn’t actually pointed it at me or shot at me so we would have to let him go. And, if that happened he would certainly continue his journey to Saskatoon. We needed a criminal code offense if we were going to hold him over for any length of time. As a result I called Yorkton again and asked them if they would contact his parents to support a charge of willful damage or theft. We needed this to hold him and get him into a psych program. If they didn’t do this then in all likelihood he would eventually be arrested on a murder charge within 24 hours. Yorkton detachment went back to his parents and explained the situation to them, and they agreed to follow up on the charges if we didn’t seek any jail time, but went for psychiatric counseling instead. This was agreed to and Ken was subsequently returned to Yorkton the following day. His car was picked up a few days later by his father. Ken appeared in court and was sent to a psychiatric center in the southern part of Saskatchewan.

To this day I wonder if Carol or her new boyfriend knew how lucky they had been. Whatever the circumstances, a Dear John Letter can have dire consequences for those who write them. All in all, this incident gave me the opportunity to look within and control an anger the likes of which I had never experienced before.

Ian Thomas was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 15 years, after which, he worked for the Solicitor General of Canada and the Department of Justice. He received his BA from the University of Ottawa and his MA from Carleton University in Nepean, Ontario, Canada. You can read more at http://www.nomadoriginal.com.

 

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