Family of dead man question RCMP response
Published Thursday, January 15, 2009 7:02PM PST
One New Years Eve, 18-year-old Matt Armstrong was doing what many people his age do on the last night of the year: celebrating.
But a combination of alcohol, bad luck, and an RCMP detachment too busy to respond immediately may have cost him his life.
Armstrong's girlfriend, 17-year-old Deidre Cahoose, blames the police for his death.
"I wish they could have come sooner than they did," she says, crying. "He would have been still here."
The 18-year-old never made it home.
Armstrong left the party on a rural road in Williams Lake around 3 a.m., and started to wander home. The main road from the party takes a fairly direct route to his house, but for whatever reason, he decided to take a trail through the woods popular with snowmobilers.
Armstrong knew the route, but he became lost.
With his cell phone battery dying, he called 911 four times. But the police decided not to respond immediately. Instead, four officers stayed at the hospital investigating the aftermath of a stabbing.
"The members said 'okay, we're tied up. We'll attach it to the file, we're going to free ourselves up as soon as we can,'" says Cpl. Marc Mendard of the Williams Lake RCMP.
When two RCMP officers finally started to head toward the area a half hour after the first call, they turned away to handle yet another call -- a disturbance. It would be over an hour before they responded to matt Armstrong's cries for help.
By the time they reached him, he was dead.
His stepfather wonders about the decision making.
"That will be a question I will always ask myself and nothing I can say or do at this
time will ever bring back my son," says Bill Mansell. "That's the hardest thing."
Mansell says there needs to be more RCMP officers on duty, but there are also other questions about when the police called in search and rescue.
Although Armstrong called 911 four times at 5 a.m., police didn't begin sending out search teams until after 10 a.m. -- five and a half hours after the first 911 call.
The RCMP aren't saying whether they handled the case properly. They're leaving that up to an independent review of the investigation.
"And if the reviewer identifies things that could have been done different or should have been done different then we'll have to listen to what that supervisor has to say about that," says Cpl. Mendard.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Kent Molgat