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Man shot by police ‘terrorized’ girlfriend’s neighbour, inquest hears

Coroner’s inquest into deaths of Surrey couple killed by police during hostage-taking in Whalley on March 29, 2019 opened April 16
Nona McEwan. (Facebook image)

The man shot dead by police during a 2019 hostage-taking in Surrey “wasn’t a nice person,” a coroner’s inquest heard Tuesday.

A young woman who lived downstairs in a Whalley home rented by Nona McEwan testified at the inquest into the deaths of McEwan and her boyfriend Randy Crosson, killed by police during a hostage-taking in Whalley on March 29, 2019.

“He terrorized me, quite frankly,” she said.

She told the inquest Crosson “was always yelling and he was up all night-doing weird things.”

The inquest into the deaths of the Surrey couple opened April 16 in Burnaby at Coroners’ Court, on the 20th floor of Metrotower II, with coroner Margaret Janzen presiding.

A Surrey-based police watchdog – the Independent Investigations Office – in 2020 found the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) blameless in the shooting deaths of Nona Marnie McEwan, 45, and her boyfriend Crosson, 48, whom authorities say was holding McEwan against her will in her rented home. The standoff saw roughly two dozen police vehicles, as well as an armoured vehicle, surround a home in a cul-de-sac near 132A Street and 100A Avenue.

McEwan was killed when she was struck by two police bullets as ERT officers fired on Crosson, who held a large knife to her throat and had “what appeared to be” a gun in his hand. Forensic police later found a “realistic-looking” replica pistol between the bed and the wall. Crosson was pronounced dead at the scene and McEwan died in hospital.

The tenant, who lived at the house for nine months, said her father phoned her, saying “There’s a helicopter at your house, are you OK?” but she wasn’t home at the time.

“I really liked Nona,” she said. “She was firstly very kind and she was extremely caring to everyone that was in her life…I saw her as a motherly figure, she really cared about all of our well-being.”

Surrey Police Service Sgt. Chris Payete, who in 2019 was a Surrey RCMP corporal road supervisor, said he responded to a dispatch call at roughly 10 p.m. about a man with a gun. He said the information “didn’t seem realistic” but police later found on their database an outstanding warrant for Crosson’s arrest.

“Randy is known to have guns and use them, albeit on birds.”

Payete said police tried to phone into the house, but the calls weren’t answered.

“There was no noise from the house at all,” he said. “Complete silence.”

They then used the public address system on a police vehicle. Still no response from within the house, the police then “banged” on the side of the house. “There was a real possibility there was nobody inside.”

Because of the report about a gun, and possible gunshot heard, the ERT was called in, Payette said, and they “arrive in waves,” with negotiators in tow. By this time roughly 90 minutes had passed.

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Asked if there’s anything he thinks could have been done differently, resulting in a different outcome, Payette said he was spent “considerable” time pondering that question over the past five years. “This was obviously one of the more difficult nights in my career and I’m on the low, very, very low end of being impacted by this. It would have been really great to know the real, the truth of how this started earlier on in the incident” related to the possible gunshot or scream.

The IIO concluded McEwan died because of Crosson’s actions, as he held her against her will in her home, threatened her life, “and provoked an armed response from the police aimed at saving her.” His actions, the IIO’s Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald said, “made it inevitable that officers would fire on him when they broke into the bedroom, and who held her in front of him as a shield against police bullets.”

Accordingly, he found, “I do not consider that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment and therefore the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges.”

The IIO operates out of Bing Thom’s Central City tower in Whalley and reports to B.C.’s attorney general.

MacDonald noted his report was based, in part, on the statements of 25 “civilian” witnesses, seven paramedics and 38 witness police officers. A toxicology report indicated Crosson had methamphetamine, amphetamine, fentanyl, nor-fentanyl, heroin, ethanol, THC and naloxone in his system.

The inquest is expected to run for two weeks.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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