There are scarce details in the police shooting of the Port Dover gunsmith

‘If rumors were raindrops, we’ll have to build a sheet’

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Rumors of Thursday’s press conference at the home of 70-year-old gunsmith Rodger Kotanko spread quickly this week.

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A crowd of 75 gathered at the property on Port Ryerse Rd. north of Hwy. 6. Some were journalists and members of camera crews, but many were family friends, customers, and interested spectators. Many had questions and attended the event along with the media.

The assembly was subdued. There were no protests, signs or shouts of slogans. But like the Kotanko family, everyone concerned wants answers on what happened at this place on November 3rd.

“How can they do such a thing without doing research on the man and then just killing him?” asked Darlene Boudreau.

By all accounts, Rodger Kotanko, 70, was a skilled gunsmith who lived calmly and was relaxed.

Around noon on November 3, Toronto police executed a search warrant in Kotanko’s store next to his house. He was shot four times while inside the store and died of his injuries. Few details about the interaction have emerged since the special investigation unit launched an investigation into the case.

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“I’m here to be enlightened,” said Bert Cronkwright of Waterford. “If rumors were raindrops, we would have to build a sheet. People who know what’s going on do not say much. It could have been us or anyone else standing there at the time.”

Kotanko counted among its clients members of the Norfolk OPP. At Thursday’s press conference, Simcoe lawyer Michael Smitiuch – speaking on behalf of the Kotanko family – said that Norfolk OPP was informed of the raid moments before it took place. Members of the local force arrived minutes after Kotanko was fatally wounded.

An unanswered question is why the Toronto Police Service conducted this operation without involving the local force? Many – including Cronkwright – say the outcome would probably have been different if local police had been involved.

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“Norfolk OPP would have been here and said ‘Rodger – would you please step outside?’ and none of this would have happened, “Cronkwright said.” We have a problem here. “

Community members attended a press conference on Thursday, November 18, 2021 at the home of Rodger Kotanko on Port Ryerse Rd.  west of Port Dover.  MONTE SONNENBERG / POSTMEDIA NETWORK
Community members attended a press conference on Thursday, November 18, 2021 at the home of Rodger Kotanko on Port Ryerse Rd. west of Port Dover. MONTE SONNENBERG / POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Guido Vandekerckhove lives on the other side of the road from the Kotanko residence. He was good friends with Kotanko and occasionally cleared snow from his driveway.

The day Kotanko died, Vandekerckhove said he noticed a dark Pacifica van parked along Port Ryerse Road about 50 meters north of Kotanko’s home. The time was around 8:15

Vandekerckhove was stopped along the road and wondered if he should take a picture of the suspicious vehicle as it drove away. He saw a similar vehicle in Kotanko’s driveway several hours later after Toronto police issued a search warrant.

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A security camera attached to Vandekerckhove’s home captured parts of the raid. But mature pine trees on the north side of Kotanko’s driveway obscured the view of the workshop where the gunsmith was shot. Vandekerckhove has handed over the recordings to SIU.

“I told SIU that – if the police wanted to bring him in – I would have brought him in,” Vandekerckhove said. “I could not sleep three nights ago. You hear a noise outside and you can not fall asleep again. It reaches the point where you can no longer trust anyone.

“I can not even understand this. I hope the shooter had a body camera on.”

David Huffman was also friends with Kotanko. Huffman attended Thursday’s event because he is also seeking answers.

“I want to know what happened,” Huffman said. “I can not believe why anyone should be shot that way. He ran a business for God’s sake.”

SIU is urged to investigate every time someone in Ontario is seriously injured or killed during an interaction with police. A member of Kotanko’s family said at Thursday’s event that the SIU probe will take about four months.

MSonneneberg@postmedia.com

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