More than 40 rounds were fired, and 2 people died. Here's what a watchdog says happened during a Surrey hostage-taking.
VANCOUVER -- Warning: This article contains content and language that may be disturbing to some readers.
A report from B.C.'s police watchdog outlines what happened during a hostage-taking last year that ended with two people dead.
The report issued Wednesday looks into an incident that began March 28, 2019, and stretched into the next day.
The Independent Investigations Office was called to investigate, as it does in any case of harm or death when police are present, regardless of whether there are allegations of wrongdoing.
The IIO then put together a narrative of what happened, based on statements from civilian witnesses, paramedics and more than three dozen police officers.
The watchdog also looked at pathology and toxicology reports, video and audio recordings, physical evidence, ballistics examinations, a bloodstain pattern analysis report, a recording of a 911 call, police radio traffic and existing police policies, among other things.
The IIO's chief civilian director, Ron MacDonald, said in his report that the first 911 call came in at 10 p.m. on March 28. It was reported that a man had been asked to leave home and refused. That man had a gun and was holding his partner in the home, according to 911 call.
The couple was later identified by friends as Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson, who had been in a long-term relationship. The IIO and other officials have not confirmed their identities.
Police called to the scene were told by neighbours they'd heard what sounded like a gunshot, and thought they'd heard the woman scream.
They said they'd seen the partner's cellphone thrown from a window to the backyard, the report says.
The man with the gun, referred to in the report as AP1, was known to police, and the report says he was eligible for arrest for breach of a probation order. Officers worked to get a warrant to get into the home.
Meanwhile, those on scene made efforts to communicate with the people inside, but got no response, according to the IIO investigation.
The Emergency Response Team was called in after midnight, and the situation was deemed a hostage-taking.
A bear banger was set off shortly before 3 a.m. from the back of the house towards the officers, the IIO says. Police said they noticed surveillance cameras on the property, and believed the man inside was using them to monitor the officers.
A few minutes later, officers saw what they said appeared to be a pistol being pointed out a window at an armoured vehicle parked in front of the house.
Disturbing call to 911
An officer told the IIO that the man was shouting for police to leave, and later that he was "not coming out."
It is alleged that at this point, the man yelled, "It's a good day to die."
The IIO reports there was a recording of a 911 call made around the same time, during which a man can be heard saying, "You tell those pigs to get the fuck away from my house or I will start killing people."
The tense situation continued, and at one point, police tried to communicate with the people inside by sending a robot with a cellphone to the home's front door. It appears the robot did deliver the phone inside the home, but the calls were never answered.
Police were granted the warrant they needed to enter the home to arrest the man they believed was involved shortly before 6 a.m. A team went in through the basement, and said they heard sounds upstairs they thought were caused by furniture being moved to create a barricade.
The person operating the robot said they heard the man say police had one hour before he killed the woman. This was around 7 a.m.
According to the report, a psychologist consulting on the case said they believed the man would do as he said. The psychologist added it seemed the person wanted to die, and would use police to end his life.
About 20 minutes after the threat was reported, the man reportedly yelled, "You have five minutes."
With his behaviour escalating, police felt they had to enter the room the couple was in, the report says. Six members of an ERT team went in.
The officer who went in first said he saw the couple. The man was holding the woman on top of him as a shield, with a knife held to her throat and what they believed was a pistol in his other hand, according to that officer.
Another officer on the team said he saw an opportunity to shoot the man, without hitting the woman, and took it.
Nine seconds of gunfire
The officer said he shot the man once in his side, but when he saw the man was still holding the knife to the woman's throat, he "reached still further until he could press the muzzle of his gun into (the man's) side, and fired several more times."
Other officers were shooting at the same time, the officer said.
The IIO said three bursts of shootings over nine seconds could be heard on multiple recordings made at the time.
When it was over, the woman was taken out of the bedroom and given medical attention.
She'd been shot twice – in the elbow and the abdomen. She died in hospital.
The man was also pronounced dead.
He had multiple gunshot wounds, three of which were said to show close-range firing on his side.
A toxicology report found methamphetamine, amphetamine, fentanyl, norfentanyl, heroin, ethanol, THC and naloxone in his system.
Pistol a replica, other weapons found
Forensics officers found what the IIO report described as a "realistic-looking replica pistol" at the scene of the shooting. There was a large knife beside the man's hand, the report said, and a bear banger firing device that had been adapted to function as a firearm.
There was a bullet inside, the IIO said.
They also said they found a second replica firearm, and another bullet, which didn't come from any of guns of the officers involved.
Elsewhere in the home, officers said they found airsoft guns, knives and a homemade Taser.
42 rounds fired from police weapons
More than 40 expended cartridges from the weapons of five officers were found.
The first officer in appeared to have fired 14 times, based on the expended cartridge cases from his weapon.
Four carbine cartridges each were found from three other officers, and the fifth appeared to have fired 16 times.
In addition, the bullet fragments found in the woman's wounds appeared to be from carbines, the weapons carried by most of the officers who'd entered the room.
The IIO said it could not be determined which gun they'd come from, and none of the woman's wounds were from bullets fired at close range.
No grounds for charges, IIO says
The IIO set out to find out whether any of the officers involved committed an offence, were negligent or used force in an unjustifiable way.
The report says evidence showed the situation was "clearly a dangerous hostage-taking," and they made efforts to de-escalate the situation before the shooting.
Based on the circumstances, the IIO found the use of lethal force against the man was justified and necessary.
There is no evidence the first officer into the room hit the woman, but it appears one of the other officers fatally injured her.
Regarding her shooting, the IIO said it's not possible to determine how two of the bullets meant for the man hit her instead, nor is it possible to determine which of the other officers fired the shots.
Four of those officers refused to provide any evidence to the IIO.
"There is, however, no reason to conclude that this tragedy was the result of anything other than an accident in the course of the violent resolution of a crisis deliberately created and escalated by (the man)," the report says.
Officers were in a cluttered, confined space and were acting in "split seconds."
A re-enactment during the first officer's interview with the IIO suggested the woman was moved or pushed toward the officers as they fired, which, if true, would have increased the risk of her being hit.
Ultimately, she died because of the man's actions, the IIO said.