So now it is done.
Cop killer convicted of first-degree murder; Automatic life sentence
Trevor Wilhelm, Windsor Star
Published: Thursday, November 01, 2007
A court room erupted into cheers and the judge called for order Thursday, when a jury announced they found cop killer Nikkolas Brennan guilty of first degree murder.
It took seven hours for a jury to find Brennan guilty of murder and using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence for the May 5, 2006 shooting of Const. John Atkinson.
Dozens of Atkinson's family members, friends and fellow cops broke into tears of joy when they heard the verdict.
"The jury did a good job and he got what he deserved, first degree murder," Atkinson's uncle, Chuck McDearmid, said outside court. "The last five days for the family has been sheer hell. It's just relived May 5 of last year. We're just glad that it's over with."
Brennan and Coty Defausses, later convicted of possession of crack cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, were standing outside an east end Mac's convenience store when they caught Atkinson's attention.
The 14-year veteran approached. Brennan pulled a gun and shot him in the face. Atkinson, 37, managed to fire back, but missed. He dropped dead in the street.
During his instruction to the jury, Justice Dougald McDermid said a first degree murder verdict would mean jurors believe Brennan knew Atkinson was a cop when he shot him.
McDermid will hear victim impact statements today, then he'll sentence Brennan.
First degree murder usually carries life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Brennan was expressionless when the verdict came. For his family, it was tears of sorrow.
"I just hope this brings some relief for the Atkinson family," was all Brennan's dad Doug could muster while leaving court.
Atkinson's widow Shelley, along with his parents Richard and Charmaine, declined to comment.
Police Chief Glenn Stannard spoke for them.
"There is still a lot of healing to go on here," said Stannard. "This is really just another step in the process for this family that has suffered tremendous tragedy."
He said the verdict was a first step for justice for Atkinson's family. The second part, he said, will be today's sentencing.
"They just want to thank members of the community for their support, the jury for all of the work they did and special attention and thanks to the men and women of the Windsor Police Service, who worked so very hard to put this case together."
Staff Sgt. William Donnelly, who was at the scene after Atkinson died, said he was also relieved for the family.
"This has been an open wound for them since it happened," he said. "It was a tragic day. This has been 18 long months, and to see it finally come to some closure for the family, I'm just relieved for the family."
The verdict was "a big relief," said Assistant Crown attorney Walter Costa. He also praised community members who helped investigators.
"This community showed a lot of courage," he said. "There were people that came forward, who assisted police in producing information. Some came to give evidence. We had one gentleman who actually attempted to assist the police in apprehending Mr. Brennan without regard to his own safety. These people are remarkable people who showed a lot of courage. This community should be proud not only of John Atkinson, but all those people who came forward to assist in this investigation."
Defence lawyer David Jacklin said he was disappointed.
"But by the same token, you could see the jury gave the matter a lot of careful consideration by the length of time they were out making their decision," he said.
If Brennan was upset, he was keeping it to himself.
"He's pretty stoic about it," said Jacklin. "He knew from the outset that a murder case is always an uphill battle. He has a lot of regrets, obviously, for the family of the deceased. He's standing up as well as can be expected."
But Jacklin skirted a question about whether Brennan would now admit he knew Atkinson was a police officer when he pulled the trigger.
"That was the matter that was an issue that was before the court," said Jacklin. "You heard his statement."
I find myself still raw, back to the afternoon in May when I was called in on my day off that we had an officer down. As for my feeling for the ruling, my jaded self says "I should fucking hope so" and stand by for the sentencing. This is the outcome I had hoped and prayed for, and now that it's happened I find myself thinking "well, so what". John is still gone. Brennan is not.
We had to live through the trial. Bad enough for me and my police family, I can't imagine what it was like for Shelley. Hearing things like Brennan saying about when he killed John "that was be best thing that ever happened to me" and other crap like that. Trying to put myself into the shoes of my brother officer that had to do the undercover cell job on Brennan, and get him to talk about what a hero he thought he was, and acting like he thought it was all so awesome, while desperately wanting to go to the next cell over and exterminate the useless mouth breather.
Now that the case is done, I'll share a bit of what happened.
John was on his lunch break on May 5, 2006. He was getting gas for his personal vehicle, because he was going to his daughters seventh birthday party. After he pumped his gas, he was going in to pay and two individuals caught his attention. As John had an almost psychic ability to know when criminality was going on, he realized that there was a drug deal in progress. He went back to his truck, got his side arm and then approached the two. He took out his badge and identified himself and an officer. Without warning or provocation, Brennan took out the pistol that he had been carrying around for several days. Many of his friends, and his family (including his own mother) knew he had a pistol and did nothing about it. At point blank range, he shot John in the face. It was the classic neurological kill that we all hear about. One to the head. It's all over. "Shut down the electrical" they tell us.
But no one told John. And he was better than that.
He was heard to scream "You aren't doing this to me!" and he drew his pistol. He fired one shot, but because his body wasn't working the right way and his arms were mush, the ejected casing stovepiped. He then did a clearance drill, because we found a live casing at the scene. He fired off another shot, which also stovepiped. About 30 seconds later, his brain was not able to ignore the fact that he had died already. He went to the ground with his gun at hand and badge beside him.
But it was not Brennans day to get away. An off duty officer that was driving in his personal vehicle just happened to still be in uniform and had his hand radio with him. He heard the "officer down" call come in, and went into the area. As it turned out, he saw a child running with no shoes (because tying your shoe laces is so terribly uncool) in the area, and took him down. From the point of that arrest, they were able to find the drugs that were being sold, and recovered the murder weapon.
I still can't stop being mad about this case. The uselessness of the killing. How strong Shelly is and how she shames us with her strength. All of it so avoidable and wasteful.
As I mentioned earlier in the thread, take care of each other. For anyone that serves in a capacity that may take your life, you know how precious it is. Wherever you serve, whatever role you play in the machine, take some time to think about what matters. All the dumb shit, politics, petty whining and bitching-put that crap behind you. Any one of us may end up fighting and dying beside the other, and we need to remember what is important, and what is useless static.
This will be a particularly poignant Remembrance Day for me, and the brothers and sisters of the WPS. I wish all of you safe journey, and Godspeed.
And remember this filthy little beast, because in about 25 years he will be back out on the street, and then maybe he will get the real justice he deserves.