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Overdue honour: Staff Sergeant Eddie Adamson to be honoured on the Toronto Police Honour Roll

April 2017

On 20 April 2017, the family of the late Staff Sergeant Eddie Adamson received some long-overdue good news:  Eddie will be honoured on the Toronto Police Honour Roll, something he was denied in 2005.

Adamson’s widow Linda and daughter Julie had to fight for the recognition bestowed on Toronto Police officers who die In the line of duty because Eddie took his own life after suffering from PTSD for over 25 years.

In 2008, three years after his death, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), in an appeals ruling, officially declared that Staff-Sgt. Adamson’s death was ruled a work-related injury, brought on by post-traumatic stress related to the death of fellow Metropolitan Toronto Police Constable Michael Sweet in 1980.

WSIB appeals adjudicator Mark Evans ruled, “Having regard for the reporting as provided by the treating psychiatrist, I am satisfied the worker suffered an acute reaction to the events of March 14, 1980,  Unfortunately, rather than improving, Mr. Adamson’s psycho-traumatic impairment continued to progress and may be accepted as the cause of his death on Oct. 5, 2005.”

Toronto Sun columnist Mark Bonokoski summed it up in a column titled, “Honour for cop overdue” (23 February 2009), when he said that the WSIB ruling made it clear that,  “…Eddie Adamson’s death was not simply brought on by a bullet from a gun but from post traumatic stress disorder; it was triggered by the guilt he felt each day for the last years of his life for not disobeying the order to stand down sooner and, instead, storming the bistro to save 30-year-old Michael Sweet’s life.”

That fateful day

It was on 14 March 1980 that one life was lost, one life was irreparably destroyed and two families devastated.  That was the day that Metro Toronto Police Constable Michael Sweet, a 6-year veteran of the Metro Toronto Police Force, was killed while working in downtown Toronto.

It was the day that Sweet responded, along with other officers, to a robbery-in-progress call at George’s Bourbon St. Bistro on Queen Street West.

Inside the tavern were career criminals Craig Munro and his brother Jamie Munro.  Craig Munro was already on mandatory supervision for a previous conviction.

Once on scene, Cst Sweet rushed into the tavern in an attempt to take the take the Munro brothers by surprise.  However the Munro brothers, armed with a sawed-off shotgun and a semi-automatic pistol, fired first, hitting Sweet in the chest.

Cst Sweet was still alive and conscious, but lay bleeding on the floor of the tavern as the Munro brothers barricaded themselves inside the tavern, which was quickly surrounded by other responding officers.

At this point, Staff-Sergeant Eddie Adamson comes into the story.

The Emergency Task Force soon attended, lead by Adamson, then a Sergeant and the son of then-Chief Harold Adamson.  Adamson wanted to storm the building as he could hear inside Sweet pleading for his life, begging the Munros to think of his wife and three young daughters, but he was ordered to stand-down by superiors who preferred to negotiate a surrender.

Inside the tavern, the Munro brothers continued to hold Sweet hostage, all the while drinking, getting stoned and taunting him about never seeing his family again, all while Sweet is bleeding out on the floor.

After 90 minutes, Adamson decided he couldn’t wait any longer and disobeyed the stand-down orders by leading a rescue attempt, accompanied by Gary Lewin of the ETF and Barry Doyle of 52 Division.  Both the Munro brothers were shot by the officers, but survived and were arrested.

Adamson saw Sweet still lying unconscious on the floor and ripped off the mask he was using to protect against the tear-gas to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Unfortunately, it was too late for Michael Sweet.  Although he was transported to hospital, he had lost too much blood and died on the operating table at 0610 hrs.  He was 30 years old.  He left behind his wife Karen and three young children:  Nicole, age 1, Kimberly, age 4 and a third child, age 6.

The incident devastated Staff-Sgt. Adamson.  Overcome with guilt for not disobeying the order sooner, Adamson blamed himself for Michael Sweet’s death.  Adamson’s wife Linda said that Eddie was never the same after that day.  According to Linda, the man she married, the one who walked out the door of their house that day was not the same man who returned home that night.

Adamson was later promoted to Staff-Sergeant and bravely tried to carry on in era when officers were expected to just suck it up and carry on after experiencing traumatic incidents.  There was no counseling or peer support back then and there was certainly no understanding about the devastating effects of what soldiers in World War I called “shell-shock” or as we know it today, Post-traumatic Stress.  He became a functioning alcoholic and was tormented by dreams that would cause him to scream out in the night, “I’m coming, I’m coming, don’t die!”

The years that passed were anything but ordinary for the Adamson family.  Four times Adamson would suddenly decide it was time for the family to move to a new house.  One of those times was preceded by a visit from two plainclothes officers who had a whispered conversation with Adamson.

Another time there was a bullet hole found in Adamson’s car when it was parked on the street and yet another time, a strange man appeared at the door when Linda answered it.  Linda was stunned to see Toronto officers suddenly appear and take the guy away without so much as an explanation.

Then there was Adamson’s briefcase that he kept locked in the house and told  the family to never open it.

Staff-Sgt. Adamson’s mental health deteriorated further in 1992 when Jamie Munro was released on parole.  Thirteen years later, Craig Munro also became eligible for parole, although he did not win any freedom at this time.

Adamson left the Metro Toronto Police force in 1994 and joined the Ontario Provincial Police as a prisoner escort officer.  His first day got off to troubling start as one of the prisoners Adamson was transporting that day looked at said: “I’ve got a message for you: Craig Munro says hello.”

Adamson’s daughter Julie, who is a Sergeant with York Regional Police, described some of the difficulties her father endured in the aftermath in an interview with Rob Lamberti that appeared in the Toronto Sun in 2011:

“His father was chief at the time, due to the (era) and the way my grandfather grew up, it was a tough thing,” Julie says. “You didn’t talk about those things. You had to ‘man up.’ He really had to ‘man up.’ He was trying to ‘man up,’ he just couldn’t get his way through it.”

Julie added her father thought about Sweet every day, “It basically just tore my father apart.”

After suffering in silence for 25 years, the pain became too much for Adamson.

On 5 October 2005, Staff-Sgt. Adamson checked into a motel in Innisfil, north of Toronto. He brought with him a thick accordion file stuffed with newspaper clippings about the murder of Michael Sweet.  He spread all the articles he had collected over the years, along with his police notebooks, out on the bed.  Later, he walked outside and shot himself in the head.  It was 9 days before his 58th birthday.

Despite the WSIB ruling in 2008, both Linda and Julie Adamson had to keep fighting to have Eddie’s death officially recognized by the Toronto Police Service as an on-duty death, so that his name may be included along with the other officers who have died in the line of duty, like Michael Sweet.  It all came down to the fact that Adamson took his own life.  Under Toronto Police policy, any officer who dies by their own hand is not included in the Honour Roll.  The same rules apply for the Ontario Police Memorial at Queens Park and the Canadian Police and Peace Officer’s Memorial in Ottawa.

Columnist Mark Bonokoski, once again, sums it up in his column by saying, “There are exceptions to rules, of course, and it could be argued Eddie Adamson did die in the line of duty because, for all intent and purpose, the life he knew died on that day in March 1980 along with Michael Sweet.  It just took 25 years for his heart to stop beating.”

Michael Sweet’s nephew Don Sweet is a Staff-Sergeant with Ottawa Police Robbery Squad and has served on the board of directors of the national Canadian Police and Peace Officer’s Memorial.  He too expressed a desire to see Adamson’s name added to the national memorial.

In December 2015, the Ontario Human Rights Commission requested the province’s Human Rights Tribunal order the Toronto police to commemorate officers such as Staff-Sergeant Adamson in a case that could reverberate across the country.

On 20 April 2017, Toronto Police released the following statement:  “Today, the Toronto Police Service has announced that a settlement has been reached with the Ontario Human Rights Commission relating to the Memorial Wall honouring fallen officers,” said a release from police spokesman Meaghan Gray.

The release continued by stating:  “By October 2017, the service will finalize a procedure that will provide a process and the specific criteria under which applications will be considered. The process will allow the name of a member who has died because of mental-health injuries, including names of those who have already passed away, to be put forward for consideration.”

This is the right decision for Toronto Police to make and we can only hope that it spreads across the country, with other police services formally recognizing their officers who lost their lives from similar circumstances.

Obviously not every police death by suicide cannot be considered an on-duty death, but Adamson’s suicide is a unique case that is inescapably linked to Sweet’s death.

He was an officer who felt he should have done more to save a fellow officer and never forgave himself for not trying before it was too late.  He was tormented by the guilt he felt for not saving Sweet, a guilt that he shouldn’t have had to endure.

The next battle will be getting the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation and  Canadian Police and Peace Officer Memorial Society to put Adamson’s name on the provincial memorial in Toronto and the national memorial on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

We can only hope that Eddie Adamson’s soul is at peace.

 

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Edited version for the Toronto Sun:

On 20 April 2017, the family of the late Staff Sergeant Eddie Adamson received some long-overdue good news:  Eddie will be honoured on the Toronto Police Honour Roll, something denied after his death in 2005.

Adamson’s widow Linda and daughter Julie had to fight for the recognition bestowed on Toronto Police officers who die In the line of duty because Eddie took his own life after suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTSD) for over 25 years.

Ruled a work-related death by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in 2008, brought on by PTSD related to the death of fellow Toronto Constable Michael Sweet on 14 March 1980.

Sweet was shot during a botched robbery, held hostage and allowed to bleed to death.  The robbers, Craig and Jamie Munro refused to surrender to surrounding police, including Adamson, then a sergeant with the ETF.  Adamson wanted to storm the building, but he was ordered to stand-down by superiors who preferred to negotiate a surrender.

After waiting 90 minutes, Adamson disobeyed the stand-down orders by leading a rescue attempt.  Unfortunately, it was too late for Michael Sweet.

Devastated and overcome with guilt for not disobeying the order sooner, Adamson blamed himself for Sweet’s death.

Linda Adamson said that Eddie was never the same after that day.  Adamson bravely tried to carry on in era when officers were expected to just suck it up and carry on.  He become a functioning alcoholic who was tormented by dreams that would cause him to scream out in the night, “I’m coming, I’m coming, don’t die!”

On 5 October 2005, Adamson checked into a motel in Innisfil.  He spread all the articles he had collected over the years about the murder of Sweet, along with his police notebooks, out on the bed.  Later, he walked outside and shot himself in the head.

Despite the WSIB ruling, Linda and Julie had to keep fighting to have Adamson recognized on the Toronto Police memorial, as the previous policy excluded officers who died by suicide.

The same rules apply for both the provincial and national memorials.

Columnist Mark Bonokoski put it, “…for all intent and purpose, the life he knew died on that day in March 1980…It just took 25 years for his heart to stop beating.”

On 20 April 2017, Toronto Police released a statement stating that by October 2017, the service will develop a “… process will allow the name of a member who has died because of mental-health injuries…for consideration.”

This is the right decision and hopefully it will lead to other police services across Canada to do the same.

Obviously not every police death by suicide cannot be considered an on-duty death, but Adamson’s suicide is a unique case that is inescapably linked to Sweet’s death.

The next battle will be getting Adamson’s name on the provincial and national police memorials.

For now, we can only hope that Eddie Adamson’s soul is at peace.

 

Sources:  http://www.torontosun.com/2017/04/20/toronto-cops-who-commit-suicide-now-eligible-for-memorial-wall, http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/officer-who-killed-himself-after-tragic-rescue-attempt-denied-spot-on-police-memorial, policesuicide.tripod.com/id55.html, badgeoflifecanada.org/tag/ssgt-eddie-adamson, www.torontopolice.on.ca/honour_roll/31, badgeoflifecanada.org/category/constable-michael-sweet-toronto-police,

 

 

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Michael Sweet’s three daughters are now older than he was when he was brutally murdered.

“I don’t really have any memory of my dad and that’s the biggest shame,” said Sweet’s youngest child, Nicole, her voice trembling as she fought back tears.

 

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: http://militarybruce.com/overdue-honour-staff-sergeant-eddie-adamson-to-be-honoured-on-the-toronto-police-honour-roll/