Mainstream media coverage of Ts'peten trial - January 8 / 97


The Province
Wednesday, January 8, 1997
by Holly Horwood, Staff Reporter

The RCMP contemplated using 4,000 soldiers to "neutralize" holdouts in the native Indian camp during the 1995 Gustafsen Lake standoff, a BC Supreme Court was told yesterday.

Machine -guns mounted on armored personnel carriers were also planned in the month-long bid to oust the renegades from private ranchland.

"Four thousand plus would be needed...100-to-one would be needed to neutralize" the camp's occupants, deputy commissioner Dennis Farrell wrote Sept. 13.

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Len Olfert, who oversaw the operation, recalled the number as the equivalent of "two batallions - my understanding was that was in the range of 1,700," he told jurors in the Surrey courtroom.

Fourteen natives and four non-natives are on trial for charges arising from the siege, which was punctuated by shooting incidents but ended peacefully on Sept. 17. The charges range from attempted murder to mischief. Court has heard the RCMP arsenal included semi-automatic weapons, submachine guns, "sniper" rifles, trace flares and stun grenades.

But under grilling from defence lawyer Manuel Azevedo, Olfert:

* acknowledged the RCMP discussed getting machine-guns to be mounted on armored tanks. Federal officials denied a request for four rifles -- "special equipment," Olfert called them -- but the RCMP obtained from its own Vancouver laboratory a .50 calibre belt-fed machine gun capable of firing five rounds a second.

* Agreed that "10,000 to 20,000" rounds were fired by RCMP officers in a shoot-out on Sept.11 after the camp occupants'supply truck was blown up.

* Admitted the RCMP did not have a search warrant when a half-dozen heavily armed officers entered the camp early Aug.18. Three phone calls from camp occupants asking Kamloops RCMP for help from the supposedly unknown intruders went unanswered until late that afternoon. A recording of the calls was later destroyed.

* Said he couldn't recall telling a reporter the squatters were armed with AK47 assault rifles. Olfert said yesterday the RCMP "never knew from one day to the next" how many were in the camp or what weapons they had.

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