When Truckers Break Down…

by Harry Rudolfs

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – The following was read at Mike O’Rourke’s May 12 funeral at St. John Chrystosom Church in Newmarket, Ont. The service was reportedly attended by over a thousand friends and loved ones. “This is the essence of Mike’s philosophy and his approach to life,” said a friend of O’Rourke’s, who asked not to be named.

“Attitude: Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, skill or giftedness. It will make or break a person, a company, a church, or a home.

“The remarkable thing is; we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.

“The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. (Author unknown).”

Whether attitude explains the actions of O’Rourke’s accused murderer, Jean Delagrave will be revealed in Brampton court June 18, when he appears via video link from Maplehurst Correctional Centre in Milton, Ont., on one charge of first degree murder and two charges of attempted murder.

Tragically, it was O’Rourke’s positive attitude, his willingness to pitch in and lend a hand, that put him in the line of fire May 7.

That was the day O’Rourke, who didn’t usually work in Liquiterminal’s second floor dispatch office (he had his own office on the ground floor) filled in for another dispatcher who was attending a funeral.

And that was the day Delagrave, 49, a former driver, for an O/O who had a tractor on with the firm until about Sept. 2003, walked into the building in Mississauga at 11 a.m.

Delagrave knew his way around the building – or at least how to get to the dispatch office. The short, rotund man went directly to a rear staircase. He climbed to the second floor and opened a door to an inner office.

Dispatchers Jurgen Zimmerman and Mike Bunney were working at computer terminals, while general manager Mike O’Rourke was talking on the phone. Gripping the receiver, O’Rourke swiveled around in his chair to look at Delagrave – and for a split second their eyes might have met. O’Rourke had never met Delagrave, or if they had it would have only been peripheral. But Delagrave wasn’t necessarily after any specific individual.

Without saying a word, Delagrave drew a handgun and methodically shot the three men, striking each with a single bullet. Zimmerman was shot through the lung and Bunney was hit in the lower torso. Although seriously wounded, Zimmerman was able to phone for help.

Shortly after the first police cruisers arrived, an ambulance helicopter landed on Royal Windsor Dr. to ferry Zimmerman to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, where he underwent emergency surgery. Bunney was rushed to Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga, where he also underwent an operation. Both men survived.

But O’Rourke, 47, would need no surgery.

O’Rourke will be sorely missed. According to friends, he touched many people with this presence and kindness. He was a sterling character, the kind of person that is rare these days, generous and engaged, involved in many communities.

Derek Varley, an old friend and associate commented: “When over a thousand people show up at your funeral…I mean this man was just all giving. We’re all living in his shadow. He lived life to the fullest and he lived life for his kids.”

But investigators still have questions, especially about Delagrave’s motive, and his whereabouts and activities in the days preceding the shooting.

Reportedly there was some dispute over pay – but that would have been with the owner/operator contracted to O’Rourke’s company, not with the company itself. Why didn’t Delagrave take the matter up with his employer?

Peel region investigators believe Delagrave was in Mississauga for a good month or so before the shooting. He may have been spotted riding a silver mountain bike and frequenting walking paths, parks and restaurants in the Royal Windsor Dr./Southdown Rd. area. On May 11, police released his picture and asked for the public’s assistance in gathering further information on the man. Had anyone seen or spoken to him in the weeks leading up to the shooting? Was Delagrave stalking the Liquiterminals’ yard? And where did he get the handgun? Was it illegally obtained or did he have a permit for it?

On May 7, as police rushed to the scene of the shooting, Delagrave left the Liquiterminals building and walked down Royal Windsor Dr. About 20 minutes later he turned himself in to the Clarkson community policing station, less than a kilometre away.

He was crying and distraught at his first court appearance in Brampton, Ont. so much so that he was put on suicide watch at Maplehurst Correctional Centre, prior to appearing before a justice of the peace for a second time, May 17.

At the second appearance he was baggy-eyed but composed, though still dressed in the purple T-shirt and belt-less blue jeans he wore the day of the shooting. He scanned the courtroom for someone he might know, but appeared not to find anyone. O’Rourke’s family and friends weren’t there either. The appearance was brief – Delagrave, through an interpreter, dismissed his lawyer, Gary Batasar, and sought to engage a French-speaking attorney.

Delagrave next appeared May 31. This time he was dressed in the standard-issue orange jumpsuit. No French-speaking lawyer appeared, although an interpreter waited in the courtroom half the day. By 1 p.m. Delagrave had a new court date and was on his way back to his cell in Milton, Ont.

On June 18, Delagrave won’t have to leave Maplehurst; he’ll appear in Brampton court by video link instead. He’s facing one charge of first degree murder and two charges of attempted murder. The case against Delagrave will probably be bumped to Superior Court at this time and a date will be set for a preliminary hearing. Watch for further coverage of the trial in future issues.

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