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Tony Romagnuolo shooting

Officers charged in shooting: widow 'hopes for justice'

York policeman stands accused of second degree murder

Tony Romagnuolo

As three officers appeared in court yesterday to face criminal charges in the death of Tony Romagnuolo, his widow couldn't even make the time to be there.

She was too busy taking her son Rocco - who was shot in the stomach the same night her husband died - to see his surgeon.

"I have three sons to look after and a family to keep together," Linda Romagnuolo said in an emotional interview at the sprawling Sunderland-area home where the shooting took place Dec. 28.

"This (the charges) is a little relief and we hope that justice will be done and that we will hear the truth," she said. "He (Tony) was a loving family man who did everything for us . . . our hearts are broken, we have lost a wonderful man."

In fact, Linda Romagnuolo said, except for the news that a York Region officer was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting, and two other officers charged with lesser criminal charges, yesterday would have been just like any other for the 41-year-old mother.

"I didn't go to the court hearings because I had to take my son to Sunnybrook (Health Science Centre) to see his surgeon. Rocco is going to have another operation in a year's time," she said.

York Region police Constable Randy Martin, who is charged with second-degree murder in Tony Romagnuolo's death, appeared briefly yesterday in a Whitby courtroom filled with police officers who came out to show support.

There was heavy security inside and outside the courthouse as Martin was granted bail by Mr. Justice John Glass of Ontario Court, general division.

Security also was tight at the Oshawa courthouse where Martin's partner, York Region Constable Mike Hoskin and Durham Constable Al Robins were granted bail after a brief court appearance.

Outside the courtroom, security was even tighter as members of the media were forced to show identification and undergo metal detector searches before being allowed inside. Rows of seats were filled by senior investigators from the special investigations unit, which laid all the charges, high-ranking police officers and rank-and-file members from both forces.

Hoskin is charged with assault with a weapon and careless use of a firearm in connection with his involvement in a confrontation that night with Tony Romagnuolo's son, Enzo, 20.

Officers Stay on Job

Robins faces one count each of aggravated assault and causing bodily harm with intent while using a firearm, which stem from a confrontation with 17-year-old Rocco, who was shot once.

Yesterday Linda Romagnuolo stood in the family's backyard with Enzo, Rocco - who lost 30 pounds during the three months he was in hospital recovering from his stomach wound - and her youngest boy, Michael, 15. "We are a tight family and we are hanging in there," she said.

The charges are a chance for her family to hear how things went so tragically wrong when the three officers went to the Romagnuolos' home at about 8 o'clock that night to investigate threats allegedly made against one of the officers by Enzo.

A confrontation took place and Tony was shot three times and died. Rocco was shot once.

Yesterday SIU director Peter Tinsley defended laying the charges.

"Based upon my assessment of all of the evidence, I have concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Durham Region and York Region officers involved are criminally responsible for their actions in this matter," Tinsley said.

Martin's second-degree murder charge is the civilian agency's first such charge against an officer in its nine years.

"There was an intentional application of force which was likely to cause death or reasonably could be expected to cause death," Tinsley explained. "These are the elements."

Following the shooting, Enzo was charged with assault causing bodily harm against a police officer, assault while resisting arrest and uttering threats following the fatal shooting.

Enzo, who went to his job yesterday at a supermarket meat department, said he is "this family's breadwinner for now. I have to work and keep us going."

The biggest burden of being a single mother after more than 20 years of marriage, Linda Romagnuolo said, is making decisions alone.

"I have to be strong. I have three boys and I have to watch over them by myself," she said. "Now I am mother and father."

Rocco, still gaunt, pale and in pain, after just being released from hospital last week, said: "I am just glad that someone was listening.

"This is some sort of proof that we are not bad guys," he said.

Officers to stay on duty despite charges in shooting

SIU hands down first-ever murder charge in its 9-year history

Three police constables - one charged with second-degree murder - will remain on the job as their cases make their way through the criminal justice system.

York Region Police Chief Julian Fantino yesterday reacted strongly to the charges brought against his officers, saying he intends to stand behind them.

"They will not be suspended," Fantino said. "I intend to support the officers to the extent that I can. They will be reassigned to alternative, important police duties no less, however, they will be in a different role."

York Region Constable Randy Martin appeared briefly in a Whitby courtroom to answer the charge of second-degree murder, laid yesterday morning by the province's special investigations unit in connection with the Dec. 28 shooting of 44-year-old Tony Romagnuolo.

Martin's partner, Constable Mike Hoskin, was also charged by the SIU, which probes all serious injury or deaths involving police. Hoskin faces one count each of assault with a weapon and careless use of a firearm, charges that stem from a confrontation with 20-year-old Enzo Romagnuolo.

A third officer, Durham Region police Constable Al Robins, faces charges of aggravated assault and causing bodily harm with intent while using a firearm during an incident in which 17-year-old Rocco Romagnuolo was seriously wounded.

Robins has not been suspended and will work in administrative duties.

All three officers were surrounded by an unusually heavy show of police security, which included tactical officers, as they made their court appearances.

SIU director Peter Tinsley said lawyers for the officers were informed of the charges on Tuesday, and all three of them surrendered in the company of their lawyers at SIU headquarters yesterday morning.

The officers, who were not in uniform, were then escorted in custody inside a SIU vehicle for their court appearances. None of the officers was placed in handcuffs.

Tinsley denied the charges came from a "witch hunt" targeting police - an accusation that had been made by the Toronto Police Association in a memo to its 7,000 members.

"I don't understand where there is any rational basis or justifiable cause for the makings of assertions that there has ever been or will be anything in the nature of a witch hunt," Tinsley said.

"The mandate of the unit is fairly simple and straightforward with regards to certain matters to investigate. That's what is done. It's done carefully, thoroughly, and, I believe, compassionately.

"I don't understand why (the police union) sees it necessary to keep (its members) in a state of turmoil and fright. I don't understand."

The count of murder Martin faces is the first time the provincial unit has charged an officer with that offence in its nine-year history. The unit has charged officers with manslaughter, a less serious criminal offence.

Martin was accompanied at his court appearance by his wife Caroline, a Toronto police officer, and a group of SIU investigators. Fellow officers also attended in a show of solidarity.

Mr. Justice John Glass of the Ontario Court, general division, released Martin on his own recognizance after his wife posted a $10,000 surety.

He was told not to possess weapons and to stay away from the Romagnuolo family and Durham police Constable Nancy George, the lone police witness to the incident.

Martin was also required to surrender his passport, though Glass allowed it to be kept by his lawyers because the officer may have to travel to Britain to see a gravely ill relative.

Outside the courtroom, lawyer Brian Greenspan, acting for Martin's regular lawyer, David Humphrey, said the officer was "looking forward to the opportunity to vigorously defend the charges and have the truth emerge in a courtroom."

Durham police Chief Kevin McAlpine attended the bail hearings for Robins and Hoskin at the Oshawa courthouse.

Justice of the Peace Brenna Brown of the Ontario Court, provincial division, allowed Robins and Hoskin to be released on $5,000 bail. Hoskin wasn't required to make a deposit for his release, but Robin's wife Patricia had to act as surety for his bail.

Like Martin, the officers were ordered to surrender their passports, not to possess firearms, ammunition, or explosives, and to stay away from George and the Romagnuolo family.

"We are a tight family and we are hanging in there," Linda Romagnuolo said as she stood with her sons, Enzo 20, Rocco, 18 and Michael, 15, at her Sunderland home yesterday.

McAlpine said it was "a very tragic event on that night and it has probably changed the lives of all the involved people - the Romagnuolo family, the officers' families, the officers themselves - forever."

Martin and Hoskin - along with Durham Region escort officers George and Robins - went to the Romagnuolo's Sunderland home Dec. 28 to arrest Enzo Romagnuolo for threats he had allegedly made a week before.

Within minutes, Martin would be wounded by a bullet from his own gun, Tony Romagnuolo would be fatally shot and Rocco seriously wounded.

Enzo was charged with uttering threats, assault causing bodily harm, and assault with intent to resist arrest. He appears in court April 9 to set a date for trial.

The York Region Police Association, the Toronto Police Association and the Police Association of Ontario all denounced the charges.

While the charges don't involve Toronto Police Association members, president Craig Brommell said: "The bottom line is we are not going to allow the SIU to target police officers in this province."