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Kevin Tokarchuk

Police warned of plot to kill: Told man to be shot, officers failed to act

Kevin Tokarchuk

An informant told Winnipeg police earlier this year that Kevin Tokarchuk would be murdered in a gang revenge killing planned for May 12, but they did nothing to prevent it, according to police sources.

Sources say the informant approached officers in a criminal investigation unit several months ago and told them of a plot to kill the 24-year-old Tokarchuk on May 12. But in the days after, police -- apparently after consulting with a Crown attorney -- decided not to pursue the matter.

Sources also say officers did not inform the Tokarchuk family of the murder plan or offer them police protection.

"This isn't sloppy," a police source said. "This is bigger than that. It's stupid. It's the wrong people doing the wrong bloody job."

Tokarchuk's mother said last night it's "unforgivable" that Winnipeg police failed to act on information that the aspiring teacher was targeted to be killed.

"I don't believe it. Had we known, we would have been gone out of that house. Me, Kevin and the dogs would have left," a tearful Diane Tokarchuk said.

"A life is more important than a house. We would have been gone in a minute."

She only learned of the prior police knowledge through a Free Press reporter.

As the informant warned, Tokarchuk was indeed killed on May 12, shot fatally in the head as he worked in his garage workshop at his family's home on Churchill Drive.

Police believe it was an anniversary slaying in retribution for the May 12, 2002 shooting death of Zig Zag Crew gang member Trevor Savoie in River Heights. Tokarchuk's older brother Daniel is in custody awaiting trial for Savoie's death.

Winnipeg police Chief Jack Ewatski said he learned about the informant's tip only yesterday.

"We have an ongoing murder investigation and I'm not going to say anything that would jeopardize it," he said.

Police sources say after the informant came forward, investigators discussed the possibility of using the informant to squeeze more information out of the gang underworld, primarily the Hells Angels and the Zig Zag Crew, the street enforcers for the Hells Angels.

It's not known how many officers were aware of the informant's tip about the Tokarchuk murder plot, or how far that information went up the command structure of the Winnipeg Police Service.

"I don't know how high it went," a source said. "Things like this have to go to an upper level, or they're supposed to."

Another police source said homicide detectives now know who the informant is, but won't say anything that could identify the informant out of fear for that person's safety.

"The facts will come out as the case progresses," the source said.

The revelation about the informant was made known to homicide detectives late last week, over the weekend and yesterday.

Sources say members of the eight-man squad are livid they didn't find out about the informant right away after Tokarchuk was shot to death.

"This pisses the hell out of us," a source said.

"This could handcuff a lot of work," another source said. "This is a bad, bad subject for us."

Diane Tokarchuk wants to know the informant's identity.

"Obviously, somebody cared enough to come forward, but the police didn't do their job," she said.

"But to that person who did come forward and put their own life on the line, I want to say thank you. It's too bad nobody listened."

Diane Tokarchuk plans to meet with homicide detectives this morning to discuss her son's killing and the new developments.

"I want to hear with my own ears who knew what and how the system has let Kevin down," she said. "I've been blaming myself all week, thinking I could have done more to protect him."

Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky, who is representing Daniel Tokarchuk on the Savoie murder charge, was angry after hearing the news last night in a Brandon hotel room.

Even if police and the Crown didn't want to act, the information should have been passed on to Kevin Tokarchuk and his family, he said.

"You leave it up to the guy who is the target. You don't just ignore it," said Brodsky.

"There are all sorts of precautions that could have been taken."

Brodsky said the fact a person would walk into a police station with that kind of information should have set off major alarm bells.

"If someone is brave enough and audacious enough to come in, someone should act on it," he said.

Obviously, the person with the information wouldn't be a model citizen, but that shouldn't be reason to dismiss his claim, Brodsky said.

Police sources also say that the apparent withholding of the informant's tip about the Tokarchuk murder plot to senior investigators signifies an internal breakdown in communication among police -- a breakdown partly caused by too many transfers of seasoned gang and drug investigators.

Those transfers have occurred during the past year, starting last year when Ewatski reorganized the vice division with the crime division into what's now known as the criminal investigation bureau.

"In my mind, it just compounds all the other things we've seen and heard," a source said.

"You've got to ask yourself where all the experience is in working on gangs," another source said. "They've been transferred out -- or retiring."

As for the Tokarchuk family, a police source said: "That's a situation we'll deal with as best we can."

Why didn't police act? NDP orders probe of failure to warn target about revenge-slaying plot

JUSTICE Minister Gord Mackintosh has ordered an independent review into reports the Winnipeg Police Service disregarded an informant's warning that could have saved the victim of a gangland revenge slaying.

Mackintosh's announcement yesterday came hours after Winnipeg police Chief Jack Ewatski ordered an internal review by the force's professional standards unit.

"The internal investigation is a good start, but in addition we want an outside review of the allegations," Mackintosh said.

Police sources have said Kevin Tokarchuk, 24, and his family were not warned after officers received a tip that he was to be killed on May 12.

The tip, from an informant seeking a plea bargain, was given to police several months ago. The tipster said Tokarchuk was to be killed in retaliation for the May 12, 2002 shooting death of Zig Zag Crew gang member Trevor Savoie, sources said. Tokarchuk's brother Daniel is facing charges in Savoie's slaying.

Although police rejected the informant's offer of a deal, the tip led to a meeting of city police officers, RCMP and a Crown attorney.

Kevin Tokarchuk, an aspiring teacher, was shot in the head as he worked in his garage workshop at the family's home on Churchill Drive, one year to the day after Savoie was killed.

Also yesterday, the victim's mother, Diane Tokarchuk, met with police to be briefed on the case. She is considering a lawsuit.

Mackintosh and Mayor Glen Murray said it's possible a public inquiry might be called, but that would only be done once Tokarchuk's killer is brought to justice.

Mackintosh said he wants an external review to maintain public confidence in the police service and to provide answers to the Tokarchuk family.

Mackintosh said details of the review, such as who will conduct it, will only be determined after further talks with police and city officials. Similar reviews have been done by the RCMP, retired judges and out-of-province Crown attorneys. The last major one was done by the RCMP of the city police 911 centre after the Feb. 16, 2000 murder of two sisters in the city's north end.

Family spokesman Jack McLaughlin said Diane Tokarchuk's meeting with homicide investigators and Staff Sgt. Jim Thiessen confirmed her worst fear -- her son's death could have been prevented.

"It's one of the most horrendous cases of mismanagement by the justice system in this province," McLaughlin said outside the Public Safety Building yesterday. He said the family is now seeking legal advice on a possible lawsuit.

"Somebody dropped the ball here. This is a grave error in judgment. This young man should not be where he is. One more body fell through the cracks of the system."

Murray said the police internal review should be completed in several days, but how soon findings are released depends on how quickly homicide detectives solve the Tokarchuk slaying.

"I have a lot of confidence in Chief Ewatski," Murray said. "I don't know a better police chief in the country."

In a release, Ewatski said he ordered the internal review to determine when the informant's tip came to the police service, who was aware of it and what actions were taken.

"This is a matter of great concern to me and our entire organization," he said. "I want to assure the Tokarchuk family and all citizens that this matter will be investigated fully."

Ewatski was in Halifax yesterday. Murray and senior councillors were briefed on the case by Deputy Chief Menno Zacharius.

Police and justice sources say several months ago police investigators encountered an informant who wanted a plea bargain in exchange for information.

Police, along with members of the RCMP, met with a Crown attorney to discuss the informant's information, but no specific threats or dates or targets were mentioned by police to the Crown.

"The threat was not shared," added Mayor Murray.

In the end, it was decided not to make a deal with the informant. It's unknown what police did with that information -- if anything.

It's also not known whether the informant's tip about the plot against Tokarchuk contained specific details.

A brief statement issued by the Crown attorneys' office yesterday said the Crown was not specifically consulted in relation to threats against Tokarchuk.

A provincial justice source said yesterday they were "relieved" to learn their involvement was minimal at best.

A police source said it's "inexcusable" the tip wasn't relayed to the Tokarchuk family and predicted major fallout within the ranks of the police service.

"You don't just sit on it. Someone is going to pay for this," said the source.

"You always pass this kind of information along and let (the target) decide what they want to do with it."

The homicide unit only found out about the informant's tip late last week.

Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky, who is representing Daniel Tokarchuk on a charge of murdering Savoie, was still fuming yesterday about the lack of disclosure.

"This should have been passed on to the family, and it should have been passed on to me," he said.

Brodsky said he immediately thought of the infamous "Jane Doe" case in Toronto, in which that city's police department failed to disclose information to the public about a serial rapist on the loose.

In a 1998 court ruling, a judge blasted Toronto police for failing to warn women about a serial rapist in that city's downtown. "Jane Doe" was awarded $220,000 in compensation two years after she was attacked in July 1996 by the so-called balcony rapist, Paul Callow.

FREE PRESS EDITORIAL - What the police need

THERE will be no point in the two inquiries ordered into police action over the possible revenge killing of Winnipegger Kevin Tokarchuk if they simply slam the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Both Gord Mackintosh, the justice minister, and Winnipeg police chief Jack Ewatski have ordered inquiries into how it was that the police received a tip that Kevin Tokarchuk, an innocent aspiring school teacher, might be killed in revenge for the shooting death of gang member Trevor Savoie, and yet did nothing about it. Mr. Tokarchuk was killed when his death might have been prevented.

Mr. Mackintosh has yet to say what form the independent review that he has ordered will take. It should not be a conventional investigation. What an inquiry needs to do is to sort out whether the police department has an internal culture that prevents the free flow of information, whether there is distrust between ranks and departments that forms such a culture, and whether the overall management of the force is dysfunctional.

Given the results of the Sophonow inquiry which accused the Winnipeg police of "tunnel vision" and the lack of training that became obvious in the inquest into the deaths of the two women who had called 911 and yet were killed, it is time to take a thorough look at how the service is structured and whether there are systemic problems that lead to bad communications and ineffective leadership.

That inquiry should not assume that leadership of Chief Ewatski nor the middle-rank management of the force nor the leadership of the police union is ineffective. The question that needs to be pursued is whether the interaction of these elements leads to a force that does not perform as well as it should.

Unattributed sources have suggested that the wrong police are doing the wrong jobs. That may be so. It may also be that resistance to change and to new ways of doing police work may be hampering investigations and communication. Some suggest that the push to community policing may be at fault. It seems more likely that it is resistance to such policies and a stubborn desire to continue old methods that are working against better policing.

It would appear that it was a communications breakdown that prevented effective protection of Mr. Tokarchuk. Some police were informed he was in danger. No action was taken. Communications are often the most difficult part of management. Managers can be effective with their immediate reports, yet not have clear lines of communication to their operations as whole. Breaking down barriers to allow good communications to flow is essential to good management, and yet, while it sounds simple, is often very hard to accomplish.

What Winnipeg needs is not simply an investigation to parcel blame or to discover what happened, but to see whether the management structure of the force needs to be overhauled to allow leadership to be effective. That investigation can best be done by someone skilled in management with a thorough understanding and grounding in a uniformed culture. Such a person will not be easy to find. But an inquiry in a traditional mould may both take too long and not produce the desired results. The Winnipeg police have already been investigated that way, yet systemic problems would seem to remain.

Slain man's mom blasts internal review: Police probe of Tokarchuk slaying expected to end soon

THE mother of a slain Winnipeg man says city police shouldn't be investigating themselves over reports they ignored an informant's warning that could have saved her son from being killed.

Diane Tokarchuk is also angry with Mayor Glen Murray for suggesting this week the internal review is the proper course of action for a case he called "human error."

"That is absolutely stupid. I'm going to ask him how he would feel if that was his child," she said in an interview with the Free Press.

"No agency should be allowed to do their own review. That is like a company that commits fraud getting their own accountant to look into it."

Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh has said he wants an external review of the case in order to maintain public confidence in the police service.

At a police awards ceremony yesterday, Mackintosh said such an outside analysis would allow the force to correct any problems.

"We make adjustments and we move on," he said. "We make the police service stronger."

Murray has said an internal review may be all that is necessary, as it alone may get to the bottom of what happened.

"The internal investigation may answer all our questions," he said. "Let's just get all the facts on the table and let the mayor and his council do our oversight of the Winnipeg Police Service."

Police Chief Jack Ewatski ordered an internal review of the matter Tuesday after it became public that an informant approached police several months ago and told officers of a plot to kill Kevin Tokarchuk.

Police sources have said several plainclothes officers may have handled the informant, but none told the Tokarchuk family of the death threat.

That internal police investigation continued yesterday as officers sifted through reams of paperwork to piece together what exactly the informant told officers and pinpoint what they did -- or didn't do -- with that information.

It is also looking at how high up the command structure that information was known. One report suggested a senior officer was involved, but that remains unconfirmed.

The internal investigation is only expected to last a matter of days, but it's not known if the findings will be released publicly, as officials do not want to jeopardize the ongoing homicide probe into Tokarchuk's slaying.

The Tokarchuk family is consulting with a local civil lawyer about a potential lawsuit against the city and police. Tokarchuk said she would wait to see the results of the various probes before calling for anyone's job.

"It makes me absolutely sick that there was information out there," said Tokarchuk, who has been fielding dozens of calls daily from regular citizens offering support.

"People I don't even know are saying this is absolutely crazy. It may be an error in human judgment, but there is a young man who has paid for this with his life."

Kevin Tokarchuk, 24, was shot in his garage workshop May 12.

Sources say information that he'd be killed came several months ago from an informant seeking a plea bargain on criminal charges. It's not known how specific the tip was.

Police now believe Tokarchuk was targeted in retaliation for the May 12, 2002 shooting death of Hells Angels associate Trevor Savoie. Kevin's older brother, Daniel, is charged with second-degree murder in Savoie's death.

Kevin, trained as an industrial arts teacher with no criminal record, was shot in the head one year to the day after Savoie was killed.

"I am having a very difficult time coming to terms with this. I have been beating myself up thinking I didn't do enough for my child," Diane Tokarchuk said.

Several homicide detectives met early Wednesday with Tokarchuk to explain the situation and express their deepest sympathies, she said. "They were a very sad bunch, very quiet," she said.

Tokarchuk also said they also share her anger with members of their own department.

"Here they are, trying to solve a murder, and there is information within the department that isn't being shared with them," she said.

Several police and justice sources have privately expressed their frustration this week, calling the case a "black eye" and an "embarrassment" for the police service.

Tokarchuk hopes a full-blown public inquiry will eventually be called into the circumstances surrounding her son's slaying.

"At least it would tell the people of Winnipeg where things went wrong and why," she said.

Five officers pulled off job: Police reportedly ignored warning of murder plot

Five Winnipeg police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave after allegations police ignored an informant's warning that could have saved a slaying victim.

Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewatski said a full internal investigation has been launched to determine whether criminal charges are warranted or if police regulations have been breached.

"Sufficient grounds now exist to initiate an investigation into this matter," Ewatski said at a news conference yesterday.

"I have ordered a complete investigation to look into the conduct of five members of the Winnipeg Police Service to see if this conduct violated any Criminal Code or Winnipeg Police Service regulations."

The chief said once the investigation is complete it would be reviewed by an outside independent police agency. The RCMP have reviewed Winnipeg police investigations in the past.

Ewatski insisted the officers are only on administrative leave.

"These officers are not suspended ... it is not punitive in nature."

Ewatski wouldn't identify the individual officers or say whether they include senior administration.

"These officers are removed from the workplace to ensure they are not put in a position of compromise."

Loren Schinkel, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said all five officers are members of his union.

"We want to ensure our members' rights are protected," Schinkel said.

"It's too early to say anything. We're concerned about our members. We'll have to wait and see where this goes."

Kevin Tokarchuk, 24, was shot while working in his garage workshop at his family's home on Churchill Drive on May 12. No one has been charged in the slaying.

Police have said they believe Tokarchuk was killed for revenge on the first anniversary date of the slaying of Hells Angels associate Trevor Savoie. Tokarchuk's older brother, Daniel, is in custody charged with second-degree murder in Savoie's death.

On May 21, Ewatski launched a preliminary review of the matter after media reports stated that an informant looking for a plea bargain told police months before the slaying that Kevin Tokarchuk was going to be killed in retaliation.

"I was extremely disappointed in the fact we, I, had to learn about this information through media contact," Ewatski said.

"I still don't know why somebody felt it was necessary to pass on that information instead of going through the chain of command. In all certainty, if this information had come to my attention we would have been doing what we are today." Mayor Glen Murray said police members he has spoken to in recent days "are shocked and taken aback at what happened.

"It's a very tough job... the possibility of mistakes being made is inevitable. That they are accountable for mistakes is important."

Winnipeg Police Association lawyer Hymie Weinstein said he has already met two of the officers on administrative leave.

"That's all I can say," Weinstein said. "I have not been in contact with the investigators."

Weinstein said the placing of officers on administrative leave has been done during earlier investigations.

"During the 911 inquest, the police service placed some of the call takers on administrative leave at the beginning. So this is consistent with what they did at that time," he said.

Murray, who held his own press conference immediately after Ewatski's, said he has full confidence in the chief and the police to investigate the matter.

"At this point we are satisfied there is enough there to warrant an investigation by the Professional Standards Unit," Murray said.

The mayor said he also supports having the PSU investigate the matter first, with an outside agency such as the RCMP reviewing the investigation afterwards.

Murray said if criminal charges are laid, "the courts would be the ultimate review."

The mayor said while the internal investigation continues, "I don't want to lose sight that our biggest priority right now is to catch Kevin's murderer right now."

Lawyer Barry Gorlick confirmed yesterday he has been hired by the Tokarchuk family. The family had earlier said they were considering a lawsuit.

"They expressed to me they know Kevin died needlessly," Gorlick said.

"What they asked me to do is to make sure he didn't die in vain. I have the broadest possible set of instructions."

A spokesman for Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh said he was pleased with the steps that Ewatski had outlined but, because of the election campaign, would not comment further.

Bruce McFarlane, deputy minister of justice, said the justice department will not conduct its own external review unless the third party review of the police department's investigation concludes it's warranted.

"It was our intent that (an external review) would be sequential," McFarlane said, adding the department followed the same procedures in the 911 investigation.

McFarlane said that if the Winnipeg Police Service's review of the incident is delayed or takes unusually long, the justice department would re-consider launching its own external review.

Meanwhile, Ewatski also refused to say what information the internal investigation had turned up.

"Something occurred last July which caused this investigation to be initiated as of today," was all the chief would say.

As well, Ewatski said he wouldn't say whether police could have prevented the slaying.

Ewatski repeatedly said he didn't want to jeopardize either the internal investigation or the ongoing investigation.

Scandal guts top police unit: Major-crimes crew hit hard as probe sidelines officers

WINNIPEG police's major-crimes unit has suffered a serious blow with three of its members among the five officers sidelined in an internal police probe, the Free Press has learned.

Major crimes, one of the busiest and most vital police units, had two detective-sergeants and one staff sergeant put on administrative leave by Chief Jack Ewatski.

They were joined by two officers, a detective-sergeant and a constable, who recently left the vice division and were working in different police districts.

The five were forced to take paid leave after allegations that police ignored an informant's warning that accurately predicted Kevin Tokarchuk would be killed on May 12.

Ewatski, who refused to name the five officers, said the internal investigation will help determine whether they breached the Criminal Code or police rules.

The growing scandal has prompted at least three of the officers to retain high-powered legal help.

With three of its members off the job, the 14-member major-crimes unit will operate short-staffed until either the probe is completed or reinforcements are assigned, sources said yesterday.

"This is a major, major hit. It's not good at all," one source said yesterday, noting major crimes was already overworked and understaffed.

"Everyone is hoping this can get resolved quickly."

The major-crimes unit is responsible for some of the most high-profile investigations in the city, including armed robberies and serious assaults.

Members of the major-crimes unit routinely assist homicide investigators, and the Tokarchuk case remains unsolved.

Homicide investigators were angry last week after learning the potentially vital information wasn't passed on to them until it was leaked to the media.

The two former vice members are responsible for some of the largest cocaine seizures in the city's history. One of them is the person who first had contact with the alleged informant last summer, according to sources.

It remains a mystery how the informant's tip worked its way through the vice division and into major crimes, where sources say it was then run up a chain of command.

A Crown attorney, believed to be from the federal Justice Department, was also consulted but not given specific information about the threat, according to sources.

Tokarchuk, 24, an aspiring teacher, was shot while working in his garage workshop at his family's home on Churchill Drive on May 12. No one has been charged in connection with the slaying.

Police have said they believe Tokarchuk was killed in revenge on the first anniversary date of the slaying of Hells Angels associate Trevor Savoie. Tokarchuk's older brother, Daniel, is in custody charged with second-degree murder in Savoie's death.

Two of the officers put on leave have retained the services of prominent defence lawyer Hymie Weinstein, while at least one other has hired Richard Wolson, according to sources.

None of the officers has been charged with criminal offences, but Ewatski has left that possibility open.

Both Weinstein and Wolson have represented several police officers who have been charged with crimes in recent years.

"I am involved, but I can't go any further and say anything," Wolson said yesterday.

Legal sources say the worst-case scenario for the officers would be a charge of criminal negligence and loss of their jobs.

Winnipeg Police Association president Loren Schinkel said yesterday people shouldn't jump to conclusions against the five "seasoned" officers.

"There are many sides to what has taken place here. There are five guys here, and five different stories," he said.

Ewatski has stressed the officers have not been suspended, just placed on administrative leave.

"These officers are removed from the workplace to ensure they are not put in a position of compromise," he said Monday.

Ewatski said he only learned of the tip after it was reported by the Free Press and CKY-TV.

Questions continued to swirl yesterday in legal circles over why police wouldn't act on an informant's tip that a killing was about to be committed, especially in light of several recent cases where they relied heavily on informants.

"It seems incredible they wouldn't follow through on something like that. Almost anyone could call police and give an anonymous tip, and the police would have a search warrant just like that. I don't understand," a legal source said.

Lawyer Barry Gorlick has been hired by the Tokarchuk family to study a potential lawsuit against the police and the city.

Tokarchuk's mother, Diane, told the Free Press it's "unforgivable" that police apparently failed to pass on information to the family.

She said they would have fled their home had they known of the informant's tip.