JIWA email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-08-03 published
'True hero' killed in the line of duty
Two men face charges after 22-year veteran is slammed into a tree while attempting to arrest suspected airbag thief
By Timothy APPLEBY and Geoff NIXON with a report by Alan CAIRNS, special to The Globe and Mail, Page A1
Markham, Ontario -- An undercover York Regional Police officer, dragged to his death yesterday by an alleged car thief on a sleepy residential street, is "a true hero" who paid the ultimate price for his "selfless sacrifice," Police Chief Armand LA BARGE said.
A charge of manslaughter has been laid against a 19-year-old Toronto man, with further charges pending. A second suspect in custody also faces an array of criminal charges.
Constable Robert PLUNKETT was a 22-year veteran of York Regional Police and 43-year-old father of three. He died after an abortive 5 a.m. operation when he approached the driver's side of a car to arrest a man suspected of trying to steal airbags - a profitable mini-industry in the auto-theft world.
The▼ suspect threw the Honda into reverse and Constable PLUNKETT was trapped by the open driver's-side door. The vehicle drove over a curb, across a lawn and slammed into a tree, fatally injuring the officer, Chief LA BARGE said.
Backup police then rammed the vehicle and arrested the driver as he attempted to escape. The other suspect, nearby in a second car, was also quickly apprehended.
Rushed to Scarborough Grace Hospital, Constable PLUNKETT died soon afterward - the first York Regional Police officer killed in the line of duty in more than 20 years.
The slain officer once won a bravery reward for rescuing an elderly woman from a frozen lake and was renowned for his work on behalf of the Special Olympics, a forum for disabled athletes.
"Rob and police officers like him are true pillars of the community that we serve, and their selfless sacrifice and their hard work ensures that the communities that we call home are safe places in which to live and to raise a family," Chief LA BARGE said.
Asked if Constable PLUNKETT's approach of the suspect was in line with normal procedure, Chief LA BARGE replied, "Surveillance officers, when they undertake these types of details, formulate a plan as to how they would effect the arrests where arrests need to be made."
As upwards of 30 officers descended on the crime scene early yesterday, residents of Ascot Crescent described the chaos.
Startled awake by the ruckus, one resident described seeing Constable PLUNKETT lying on the street.
"I heard a very loud noise and somebody yelling," said a woman who asked that her name not be published. "He was lying on the ground and they were trying to get him to breathe."
She said she took a blanket outside to an emergency worker in hopes that it would be passed on to Constable PLUNKETT, but it was too dark for her to tell if it was eventually placed upon him.
A few doors away, at a home directly across the street from where he was killed, another homeowner recounted hearing officers yelling, "Breathing! Breathing!"
Police had followed two cars - both Hondas - from an address in Toronto to Ascot Crescent, in the Birchmount Road and Steeles Avenue area. At least one of the vehicles was stolen and police believe it had been taken to a quiet location to remove its airbag.
The▼ driver was trying to do just that when Constable PLUNKETT moved in for the arrest, Chief LA BARGE said.
The death is the first killing of a police officer in York Region since 1984, when two officers died in the line of duty within weeks, and sent shock waves across the force, formed in 1971 and now serving more than 900,000 people.
"It's an organization where we've not lost many officers, but even one is one too many," Deputy Chief Bruce HERRIDGE said.
The theft of airbags and other auto accessories is a long-established business, said Detective Staff Sergeant Scott MILLS, who heads the Ontario Provincial Police auto-theft unit.
"There is a very large grey market for replacement auto components, airbags being one, along with Global Position System, stereos, body components - things that can easily be put into high-end vehicles," he said.
"Body shops buy them. There's a very low profit margin in auto body repair, so if the owner can buy, say, airbags for a Cadillac Escalade for $100 on the grey market, then he doesn't have to go to General Motors and buy them for $400."
As for the thieves, police say they range from drug-hungry addicts needing a fix, to slick, well-organized criminal gangs.
"And some shops buy them up like candy," another police source said.
In this instance, detectives believe the suspects specialized in the theft of airbags, which also get shipped abroad to developing countries.
Chief LA BARGE suggested Constable PLUNKETT had no choice but to act as he did.
"Surveillance officers work in a team environment, but the situations that they encounter can happen so quickly that there is absolutely no alternative but for the surveillance officers to make those arrests," he said.
"And this is the particular situation that we are dealing with here."
Chief LA BARGE indicated that 43 airbags had been stolen in Markham since January of this year - most from Honda and Acura model vehicles - and that this particular investigation had been under way for two or three weeks.
Nadeem JIWA, 19, has been charged with manslaughter, which usually describes an act of unintentional homicide. Baseer YOUSAFZAI, 23, faces charges of breach of bail and possession of stolen property.
Both men are from Toronto and likely face additional charges, police said.
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JIWA firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-08-09 published
Officer remembered as friend, athlete
'Affable manner and his Huron County charm made him a very easy person to get to know,' Chief says
By Sean Patrick SULLIVAN, Canadian Press, Page A10
Newmarket -- Thousands of police officers from across Canada paid tribute yesterday to slain Detective Constable Robert PLUNKETT, who was remembered at his funeral service as a dedicated family man with a personal motto of: "Go big or go home."
Det. Constable PLUNKETT, 43, a 22-year veteran of York Regional Police, was killed last week when he was struck by a car while attempting to make an arrest.
Officers in dress uniform were marshalled on a grass-covered slope before marching into the complex in this city north of Toronto, followed by a solemn stream of mourners.
The complex's 3,500 seats were filled, as was an overflow room. Some 1,500 other mourners - many of them uniformed police officers - listened to the ceremony from the parking lot in 30-degree temperatures.
York Regional Police Chief Armand LA BARGE praised Det. Constable PLUNKETT's athleticism and superb physical conditioning, which he said set the officer apart from others in his rookie year.
"Rob's affable manner and his Huron County charm made him a very easy person to get to know, and as a member of our police service, Rob distinguished himself as a very determined and a very gifted athlete," Chief LA BARGE said.
York Inspector Tom CARRIQUE said Det. Constable PLUNKETT's colleagues valued his ability to bring levity to a situation with a practical joke, often at the expense of an unsuspecting supervisor.
He recalled how "Plunk" and a few accomplices were once caught carrying a colleague's Austin Mini Cooper across a parking lot on their way to hiding it in a corn field.
Glenn MacDONNELL, president of Special Olympics Ontario, said Det. Constable PLUNKETT's love of sport - and his belief that policing is more than just law and order - prompted the enthusiastic officer to throw himself into organizing events for the group, including acting as chair for the Special Olympic Spring Games in 2000.
Det. Constable PLUNKETT received a number of accolades throughout his career, including one in February, 1998, when he was recognized for bravery in assisting in rescuing an elderly woman from the freezing waters of Swan Lake in nearby Markham.
He is survived by his wife Sonja and three children, Amanda, Matthew and Jeffrey.
The funeral comes one day after a charge against a suspect in Det. Constable PLUNKETT's death, Nadeem JIWA, 19, was upgraded from manslaughter to first-degree murder. Baseer YOUSAFZAI, 23, faces at least four lesser charges. Both suspects appeared in a Newmarket courtroom yesterday and will return to court later this month.
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JIWAH email@example.com_county.london.london_free_press 2007-08-03 published
York officer dies attempting arrest
Const. Rob PLUNKETT, 43, was dragged by a car, pinned to a tree, then thrown from the vehicle.
By Steve RENNIE, Canadian Press, Fri., August 3, 2007
Markham -- A pre-dawn police probe into air bag thefts turned tragic yesterday when a veteran York Region officer died after being dragged by a car, pinned to a tree and then thrown from the vehicle while attempting an arrest, police said.
Const. Rob PLUNKETT, hailed as "true hero" by his police chief, was the force's first officer to die in the line of duty since 1984 and only the third in the department's history.
A 19-year-old man faces a manslaughter charge in the death of the 43-year-old Markham married father of three and police said additional charges are pending.
PLUNKETT's death came as a heavy blow to a force not accustomed to loss, said Deputy Chief Bruce HERRIDGE.
"It's an organization where we've not lost many officers, but even one is one too many," said HERRIDGE, adding that PLUNKETT was well-known within the force.
The▲ tragic confluence of events that sent PLUNKETT to hospital with fatal injuries were outlined yesterday by York police Chief Armand LA BARGE.
During a joint investigation between 5 District criminal investigation bureau and the York police special services unit into airbag thefts, police surveillance officers spotted two Hondas -- one white and one gold -- leaving a Toronto address.
Police said there have been a rash of airbag thefts since last September and 43 thefts since January of this year. Stolen airbags can net between $1,500 and $2,000, LA BARGE said.
Officers believed at the time the gold Honda was stolen, LA BARGE said. He confirmed at the afternoon news conference the car was indeed reported stolen.
The two Hondas were driven to a crescent in Markham, just north of Toronto, where plainclothes officers saw the drivers park their cars. The driver of the gold Honda opened his door and police allege he took out a stolen air bag.
Just after 5 a.m., PLUNKETT moved toward the open driver's side door of the gold Honda intending to make an arrest, said LA BARGE.
"As Const. PLUNKETT attempted to arrest the suspect, the suspect put the vehicle into reverse and accelerated over a curb, across a lawn and over several shrubs," he said.
PLUNKETT was then pinned between the open door and a tree as the suspect kept trying to drive away, LA BARGE said. The officer was then dragged onto a nearby lawn and thrown from the car.
"The suspect continued to reverse across the lawn at which time assisting officers rammed the vehicle to stop its progress," said LA BARGE.
A local resident, who didn't want to be named, said he heard two loud bangs outside his window and looked out to see a man lying on a lawn across the street.
The neighbour said he heard cries of, "He's bleeding, he's bleeding," shortly before an ambulance arrived.
PLUNKETT was taken to a hospital in east Toronto, where he died of his injuries.
Nadeem JIWAH, 19, has been charged with manslaughter and police say more charges are pending.
A second suspect, 23-year-old Baseer YOUSAFZAI, was also arrested and is facing charges of theft, mischief and bail violation.
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