An ArmchairMayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THERE WAS a collective sigh of relief in the community Monday when Supt. Brad Mueller announced that charges have been laid in the hit-and-run death of Jenn Gatey, a teenager killed as she waited for a bus not far from her Aberdeen home.
The guilt or innocence of 42-year-old Jason Charles Gourlay remains to be proven in court but the fact police have finally concluded their investigation and identified a suspect four months after the accident comes as good news.
The public waited and wondered as the investigation was underway, with occasional re-assurances from RCMP that it was still very much active.
Mueller made pointed reference to the situation as he read the media release Monday:
“The RCMP benefit from the engagement of the public in investigations. We also understand the frustration people feel while waiting for answers. Investigations involve careful consideration, examination of vital information, inspection, analysis, research and scrutiny. We must ensure that this information is accurate and protected to safeguard the integrity of the investigation, the court case, as well as the privacy and safety of all parties involved. Information prematurely released can alter potential witness testimony or can violate the rights of the accused. We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to the pressure imposed in public forums for fear of falling short in our duty to protect the communities we serve.”
That said, Mueller also thanked the public for its co-operation in the investigation.
The swift door-to-door canvassing by RCMP officers in the immediate wake of the accident led to numerous tips as well as acquisition of video evidence that included private home surveillance tape of a passing vehicle.
RCMP spoke with hundreds of people and interviewed many of them.
All of that work, said Mueller, led to the criminal charges against Gourlay. The first charge, under the Criminal Code Section 252(1.3), Failure to Stop at the Scene of an Accident, carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life if its proven the defendant knew that the victim was killed or that he was “reckless as to whether the death of the other person results from that bodily harm, and the death of that other person so results.”
The other charge, possession of a controlled substance (resulting from a search warrant soon after the accident) involves a seizure of heroin and carries the possibility of fine or prison.
It’s human nature to want fast results when such a tragedy occurs, but this investigation was clearly carried out in a highly professional manner, and proves that “slow and steady” gets results.