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Officer in charge tells inquest everything possible was done to save B.C. hostage

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The officer in charge when police in Surrey, B.C., killed a hostage taker and the woman he was holding says he believes he did everything possible to save her.

RCMP Insp. Blair White told a coroner's inquest on Wednesday the suspect, Randy Crosson, gave officers a deadline on when he would kill Nona McEwan, and a mental-health professional working with police believed the man wanted to die.

White took the jury through police actions during the nine-hour standoff that dragged into the early morning hours of March 29, 2019.

The RCMP emergency response team was in charge of the scene around the house after police received reports that Crosson was inside with a gun.

An armoured vehicle was parked on the home's front lawn so officers could use a loud speaker to speak with Crosson.

White said the suspect pointed a pistol out the window and police heard what they thought was a bear banger tossed in their direction, he said.

Efforts to get Crosson to speak to police were unsuccessful, White said.

He told the jury the “mission changed” from officers wanting to check on McEwan and arrest Crosson on an outstanding warrant to wanting them both out of the house and arresting Crosson on new charges.

Crosson called 911, White said, telling the operator to “tell those pigs to leave, leave my house or I'll come out and shoot them.”

He said police broke down the front door of the house so a robot could enter to record sound and video.

Just before 7 a.m. the robot heard Crosson say “you have an hour or I'm going to kill her,” White testified.

White said he approved a plan to use explosives to enter through a door and window of a bedroom where they believed Crosson was holding McEwan.

“I did everything I believe that I could have under those circumstances to make the right decisions at the right time for the right reasons with the right resources and assets in place. ”

He said he heard multiple gunshots being fired from what sounded like two different calibre weapons and heard over the radio that the suspect was dead and the hostage had been rescued but was in critical condition.

“There's nothing worse for a critical incident commander to hear what I heard that day. To go from some form of an elation, hearing that … the victim had been rescued, and then receiving news a short time later from the hospital that that wasn't the case that she was deceased,” he said.

“It's heart wrenching. And I feel for the family, feel for the members, I feel for the neighbourhood.”

He said once he launches a plan it is out of his hands and he had hope that Crosson would do the right thing instead of the “absolutely worse thing possible.”

“At the very end, the only one that could have changed the narrative is the subject,” he said.

“They created the circumstances, and they finished the circumstances and unfortunately every opportunity we gave them to stop was not acknowledged,” he said of Crosson.

A report from the province's police watchdog following the deaths cleared police of wrongdoing and said Crosson held McEwan in front of him as a shield against police bullets.

Coroner's juries do not place blame but have the option to make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2024.

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