Shocking and tragic — but also a potential call to action.
That is the reaction of community members as news arose that the 56-year-old Penticton man charged with second-degree murder in relation to his common-law partner’s death used to be a Mountie.
Keith Gregory Wiens turned himself into police Tuesday morning, when Penticton RCMP responded to a report that his 55-year-old partner Lynn Kalmring had been shot and killed. Wiens was arrested at the scene.
E Division Cpl. Annie Linteau confirmed that Wiens is a retired RCMP officer who left the force in 2001, but wouldn’t release his service details.
“His history with the RCMP has no relation or connection to the alleged offence that he’s being investigated for,” she said.
One women’s safety advocate says she was surprised at the news, having worked with Wiens in his role at the Summerland RCMP detachment before his retirement and personally held him in high regard.
Donna Henningson is the current resource co-ordinator of the South Okanagan Women in Need Society who first met Wiens more than a decade ago before she joined the women’s organization. He was a corporal and they worked together often.
“I know the suspect is a good man. It doesn’t change the fact that a woman is dead,” Henningson said in offering her personal perspective on the news. “Though I know the suspect is a good man, through his work as a police officer, I’m not privy to his relationships at home.
“How this case has struck me is it’s given me a deeper understanding. Men are people. Men are human, and help is needed for both men and women to prevent these tragedies and prevent this from really ruining lives — two lives here.”
Wiens appeared in Penticton Law Courts Wednesday morning and was remanded into custody. He is scheduled to appear next on Aug. 24.
Henningson said seeing a retired police officer arrested should challenge the public’s need to see domestic violence cases in “black-and-white terms” and the accused as a “boogeyman.” The reality is no one is immune.
“It could be the guy down the street you talk to every day. We’re not privy to the relationships at home. We don’t know what happens. We don’t know the stress people are under, if that’s the case and I’m speculating,” she said. “But they are people, they are human and help is needed for both men and women to prevent these tragedies.”
The homicide is now the third violent incident against a female victim in as many weeks. A forcible confinement case of a woman and her young child drew national attention, followed by second sexual assault case in Okanagan Falls.
Henningson hopes the incident at the gated community at Sandbridge spurs the South Okanagan into action.
“I’m hoping the community can come together to do something really proactive, and I’m not talking vigilante here,” she said. “There are things that we can do as a community to sit down, talk together, bring every aspect of this community together and take some steps. What kind of community do we want here?
“This isn’t Pollyanna. This is looking at what we want, and moving towards it.”