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Police officers recount final minutes of fatal B.C. hostage taking

Coroner’s inquest hears testimony from ERT members who shot Randy Crosson in Surrey in 2019
An IIO officer speaks with a Mountie at the scene of fatal March 29, 2019 shootings. (File Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Note: This story includes details that may be disturbing.

Cpl. Chris Dibblee was the first officer from the Emergency Response Team (ERT) to enter the room where Randy Crosson was holding his girlfriend, Nona Marnie McEwan, at knifepoint on the morning of March 29, 2019.

“To say it was high risk would be an understatement,” Dibblee said during testimony at a coroner’s inquest Thursday (April 18).

Dibblee and Const. Jordan MacWilliams, another member of the entry team, testified separately at the inquest into the deaths of McEwan, 45, and her boyfriend Crosson, 48. The inquest, which started on Tuesday (April 16), is underway at Coroners’ Court in Burnaby.

At the time of entry, the primary entry team, called “Bravo,” included Dibblee, MacWilliams, Const. Luke Johnston, Const. Darcy Rowe, Const. Andrew Michaud, and Const. Brent Wantke.

Dibblee testified that each ERT member is trained to make a risk assessment before and during calls. In most cases, the risk assessment decreases as the call progresses, but in this case the risk increased as police gathered more information, Dibblee said.

‘You have one hour’: ERT members expedited response

As the hostage situation progressed, MacWilliams was an outside deck with four other members of the Bravo team when the robot operator relayed the message that they had heard a male voice say, “You have one hour.”

“We took that as a timeline, and that generated a request from command for us to expedite getting our deliberate action in place to try and attempt the hostage rescue,” MacWilliams said.

During that time, MacWilliams heard a man from inside the closed room yell, “You have five f—-ing minutes.”

“So I was very concerned,” MacWilliams said. “I believed when he said that that meant that he was going to kill her if we didn’t do something in those five minutes.”

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Michaud than radioed to have Dibblee join the Bravo team upstairs and to bring a ballistic shield, MacWilliams recalled.

Dibblee moved to the front of the Bravo team, armed with a pistol, hard body armour and a ballistic shield.

Johnston placed an explosive charge on the door to the bedroom where McEwan and Crossson were believed to be.

MacWilliams heard Cpl. Frank Penney, yell the go word, “lighting, lighting, lighting.”

Johnston initiated the charge from a short distance away and yelled “fire in the hole.”

As the charge went the Bravo team moved towards the door.

Dibblee said, “As I reached the threshold of the door, I can see that there is what I perceived as a lethal threat, meaning there’s a person who said that somebody’s going to kill this woman.”

Crosson was using McEwan as a ‘human shield’: police

Both Dibblee and MacWilliams testified that they could see Crosson and McEwan lying on their backs on the bed, with McEwan being held on top of Crosson, facing the door. Crosson was using McEwan as what Dibblee and the police refer to as a “human shield.”

Both officers said that they could see Crosson holding a knife to McEwan’s neck and a pistol in other hand that he was waving around.

Dibblee called out “human shield,” so the ERT members behind him were made aware.

MacWilliams threw the flashbang grenade toward the corner where Crosson and McEwan were.

Upon entering the room, Dibblee tripped over the clutter and debris that was in front of the entrance to the room.

When he got to his feet, he could see that Crosson and McEwan had not moved.

Dibblee moved into a different part of the room so his teammates had space to enter.

“At that time, he still had the knife in one hand and the gun in the other. I felt that the threat hadn’t changed, and as I was approaching him, I already knew from the door that unless something changes, I have to shoot him to stop him,” Dibblee said.

During this time, Dibblee saw “no indication of surrender.”

Dibblee said he recalled being the first to fire, and more than once before any other rounds were fired.

“I was the closest, obviously being the first person in the room, I was the closest to them, and I don’t recall hearing any shooting before I shot,” Dibblee said.

During this time, other Bravo team members entered the room.

MacWilliams testified the officers’ actions had no effect on Crosson’s behaviour.

“He still had the gun in his hand pointed towards us,” MacWilliams said.

MacWilliams shot two more rounds, until Crosson “slumped against the wall.”

MacWilliams and Dibblee stopped shooting when they saw that Crosson was no longer a threat. Dibblee shouted, “he’s down,” to let other members of the team know.

The team then shifted to “assessing to recovering Ms. McEawn and assessing her for any injuries.”

“That would have included assessing Mr. Crosson for injuries; as I mentioned, his injuries were such that there was not going to be anything that we could medically provide for him.”

Dibblee was one of several medics that attempted to provide life-saving care to McEwan.

The inquest is underway on the 20th floor of Metrotower II, with coroner Margaret Janzen presiding. She and a jury are hearing evidence from witnesses under oath.

The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances but not any finding of legal responsibility.

-With files from Tom Zytaruk

Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I cover health care, non-profits and social issues-related topics for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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