A Surrey-based police watchdog has found the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team blameless in the shooting deaths of a woman and a man during a hostage-taking at a house in Whalley on March 29, 2019.
Nona McEwen was accidentally killed, said Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald of the Surrey-based Independent Investigations Office, when she was struck by two police bullets as ERT officers fired on a man who was holding 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.
Neither of the deceased’s names are included in MacDonald’s report released April 1, but shortly after they were killed they were identified as Nona McEwan and her boyfriend Randy Crosson.
MacDonald concluded she died because of his 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, 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.”
— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) March 29, 2019
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, with an annual budget of $9.4 million and staff of 65.
An IIO information bulletin at the time said the man was pronounced dead at the scene and the woman died at hospital. Meantime, Corporal Frank Jang, a spokesman for the Integrated Homicide Team said IHIT was conducting a “concurrent” investigation with the IIO, “because there’s two deaths involved.”
But Jang now says IHIT is not conducting a parallel investigation and that “all enquiries regarding that file should be directed to the IIO.”
MacDonald noted his report was based, in part, on the statements of 25 “civilian” witnesses, seven paramedics and 38 witness police officers.
The hostage taker, he said, was heard yelling, “It’s a good day to die.”
A toxicology report indicated he had methamphetamine, amphetamine, fetanyl, norfentanyl, heroin, ethanol, THC and naloxone in his system.
Jennifer Strachan, RCMP deputy commissioner, issued a statement Wednesday.
She offered on behalf of the B.C. RCMP and “in particular” the Lower Mainland ERT members “our sincere condolences to the woman’s family.
“From the day this incident took place, our thoughts have been with them as they have suffered an unimaginable loss,” Strachan said.
She added that ERT members receive specialized training “and equipment to deal with potentially volatile and exceptionally dangerous situations such as hostage takings.
“Our hope is to never have to use that training or equipment, but to be available and ready when needed. Each police-involved incident is unique and, despite extensive training, can unfold in unpredictable ways.”