A leader of the RCMP team that surrounded a home in Bay Bulls has testified he was told that Leo Crockwell, the man inside, was delusional and not likely to come out on his own.
Sgt. Barry Pitcher, who was the leader of the first emergency response team to arrive at the Bay Bulls house, testified in Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday.
Pitcher told the court that they were told that Crockwell was delusional, and that he believed there were German soldiers outside his house.
Crockwell is being tried on eight criminal charges laid after a week-long standoff with RCMP in December 2010, and is now representing himself at the trial after firing his defence lawyer last week.
Pitcher said Crockwell's family told police that Crockwell had barricaded the doors in the family's living room with furniture, and that there was a stockpile of food.
Pitcher testified that he had been aware that Crockwell had spent months in the Waterford psychiatric hospital in St. John's in the 1990s.
The jury had already been told that Crockwell chased after and assaulted his sister outside the home, and had frightened them when he fired a shotgun into a wall. When Crockwell's mother and sister fled from the scene, a neighbour called for help from the RCMP.
Pitcher's testimony explained how the RCMP had responded in the early hours of what would turn into a dragged-out standoff.
Communication attempts all failed
Pitcher said that given what officers knew about Crockwell, and their analysis of similar situations, they did not believe Crockwell would leave the house willingly.
Attempts to communicate with Crockwell often failed. Pitcher said they got a phone into the house that also had a camera on it. Police saw Crockwell cutting the cord before it went black.
Pitcher said over several days they tossed tear gas, pepper spray, distraction devices and ball cameras into the house. Pitcher testified that RCMP put so much tear gas in the house that he was surprised Crockwell did not come out.
Crockwell suggests RCMP escalated situation
On cross-examination, Crockwell asked: "Don't you think smashing windows would make someone feel they were under attack? Do you think the situation was escalated by the police?"
Pitcher replied: "I felt the level of force was necessary because of your actions. We had to smash windows to get communication to try to get you out safely."
Pitcher said on Dec. 8, the police decided to move in.
As they approached a door in the home, a shot was fired through the screen.
Pitcher said RCMP still used a battering ram to knock down the metal inside, and when a second shot was fired at a police robot, Pitcher felt the situation had become too dangerous. The team was ordered to retreat.
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