One would hope that the judge who released alleged cop-killer Randall McKenzie on bail is today feeling a deep sense of remorse over the learning of a tragic life-and-death lesson.

It boggles the mind that any judge would see fit to give him bail.

When the 25-year-old McKenzie, now in custody for the first-degree murder of a rookie OPP officer, along with his girlfriend, Brandi Crystal Lyn Stewart-Sperry, 30, of Hamilton, was cut loose, he was facing several firearms offences — including shunning an already imposed lifetime ban on guns — as well as the assault on a police officer.

McKenzie’s bail at that time carried a number of conditions, including the long-shot odds that he remain in his home, as well as the already redundant order not to possess any firearms.

When he failed to show up for court in September, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

That decision to grant bail to McKenzie, an Indigenous member of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, set fate’s ball in motion.

OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique told a news conference late Wednesday night that his anger is largely due to the fact that the man accused of killing Const. Grzegorz (Greg) Pierzchala was out on bail on criminal charges, including assaulting a police officer.

“I’m outraged by the fact that McKenzie was out on bail and had the opportunity to take the life of an innocent officer,” Carrique said. “I know that there is a lot of interest in ensuring that, to see that changes are made, where possible, so that people charged with violent offences that are firearms-related are not in that position moving forward.”

It is a decades-old refrain but one which Parliament has persistently ignored.

Pierzchala, 28, was shot and killed while responding to a call about a car in a ditch along Indian Line Road, just west of Hagersville in southwestern Ontario, at about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday. He was transported to West Haldimand General Hospital in Hagersville, where he died.

It was his first day on the job post-probation. Carrique said Pierzchala was “ambushed” and never stood a chance.

A National Parole Board document, to warrant excuses, noted McKenzie experienced the negative impacts of colonialism.

“Your biological parents struggled with alcohol and were neglectful,” it said. “You believe your adopted grandfather may have attended residential school … You have suffered abuse, experienced addiction and have been disconnected from your family and cultural community. These losses and negative experiences are likely linked to your offending.”

A frustrated Carrique called Pierzchala’s death preventable, noting he is the fourth officer in Ontario to be fatally shot since September.

“This should have never happened. Something needs to change. Our police officers, your police officers, my police officers, the public deserve to be safeguarded against violent offenders who are charged with firearms-related offences,” he said. “I’m outraged by the fact that McKenzie was out on bail and was provided the opportunity to take the life of an innocent officer.”

In a written statement to The Canadian Press, McKenzie’s family expressed their condolences to Pierzchala’s family.

“We wish them healing and peace,” the statement said.

They said McKenzie had some challenges growing up, got into the wrong crowd in high school and began abusing drugs at a young age.

“Everyone is having a difficult time processing this and is extremely hurt,” the statement said. “Intergenerational trauma is a real thing.”

McKenzie’s family said they have been bombarded with hateful messages since the shooting. The statement said they are being called “savages and trash and disgusting and that we should rot.”

“We are not horrible people,” it said.


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.