TORONTO - Former soldier Warren Bate's dream of becoming a cop has been crushed and his reputation ruined by a Durham Regional Police officer who has refused to either charge him or remove him as suspect in an attempted murder.
And now the veteran has been left dangling in the wind by the minister of defence, who he recently turned to for help proving that, seven years ago before he was honourably discharged from the Canadian Forces, he returned his barracks box -- the only evidence linking him to shots fired at a car on Hwy. 401 in 2010.
Bate received a letter from Peter MacKay last month informing him there is actually no record he returned any of his military gear.
"Bate still has 90 items valued at $4,646.62 that have never been removed from (the Canadian Forces Supply System)," MacKay's letter stated.
"I couldn't believe it," Bate, who served 12 years as a reservist with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, said of MacKay's revelation. "I was stunned."
Before soldiers can be released they must return their military kit to clothing stores, which Bate vividly remembers doing on Aug. 15, 2005, in Bowmanville, where he lives.
Once each item is checked off, the military member's Personal Liability Clearance Card is signed. The soldier then presents the PLCC to be released.
Bate handed over his PLCC and received release papers stating he owes $0 worth of equipment, the only proof he has that he returned his gear.
But that form wasn't enough to prove his innocence two years ago when his old barracks box -- filled with ammunition, smoke grenades and a disguise -- was allegedly found buried by a man walking through a wooded area north of Hwy. 401 off Bennett Rd., east of Bowmanville.
Police claim a rifle was also found under a nearby fallen tree.
It's alleged that rifle was used 10 km west along Hwy. 401 at Courtice Rd. on July 28, 2010, to shoot at a pickup truck.
Bate, who was recovering from back surgery at the time of the shooting, said he was excited when he received a call Oct. 28, 2010, from an officer claiming she worked in the recruiting office for Durham Regional Police -- one of several services he had applied to.
But when he showed up at the police station the next day as requested, his dream was shattered by Det. Paul Dobbs, who informed him he was under arrest for attempted murder and other offences.
After six hours of interrogation, and being accused of "leading a double life just like Russell Williams," Bate was released with no charges.
But two years later he remains a person of interest.
As far as he knows, the footlocker with his name, rank, service number and regimental colours emblazoned on the lid is the only evidence tying him to the shooting.
Bate went public with his story in the Toronto Sun in June, which helped him reclaim his dignity, but didn't clear his name.
He then contacted his MP John O'Toole, who helped him reach out to MacKay.
But MacKay only made things worse without offering much of an explanation.
"The unit erroneously processed his release while the equipment was still on record," MacKay said in his letter. "It's unknown whether this error was committed due to negligence on the unit's part or because the unit was led to believe that the member's records were clear."
"It is unfortunate that this error was committed in 2005 and that Mr. Bate was released from the Canadian Forces with items still on his records," the minister added.
MacKay goes on to say Bate should have returned his kit to 8 Wing clothing stores in Trenton.
But the Sun spoke to half a dozen veterans from Bate's old regiment and none of them returned their gear to CFB Trenton.
One former fellow Hasty Ps was a "storesman" who spent two years issuing kit to new soldiers and collecting kit from outgoing soldiers.
"Bate would not have received his honourable release if he had not returned all his issued kit and cleared stores," Andrew Dean said.