POLITICS

Newfoundland man who evaded RCMP perimeter says someone drugged him

05/29/2012 01:55 EDT | Updated 07/29/2012 05:12 EDT
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The Newfoundland man who fled undetected from a week-long standoff with the RCMP says someone drugged him before police launched what he called an illegal and excessive "assault" on his mother's house.

Leo Crockwell, who is representing himself, summed up his defence Tuesday in provincial Supreme Court in St. John's before a jury of seven women and four men. One female juror was excused Tuesday from all remaining duty for reasons that weren't outlined in open court.

"Basically this was a covert operation," said Crockwell, who has pleaded not guilty to six charges including reckless discharge of a firearm, assault with a weapon and making a threat.

"It was an assault on the residence. It was unnecessary, and I think it was illegal."

He said the entire ordeal could have been avoided if police had properly approached him with a warrant or even notice of a warrant for his arrest.

Instead, Crockwell said it became "a very uncomfortable situation" that he likened to police war games with flood lights, tear gas, a battering ram and barking police dogs outside the modest two-storey home in Bay Bulls, N.L.

Crockwell pointed out what he said were flaws and contradictions in testimony that, he argued, underscore the prosecution's failure to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Every inconsistency is reason for doubt," he told the jurors.

Several RCMP officers testified that their duty was to protect public safety and that of Crockwell while trying to reach a peaceful outcome. They said repeated attempts to call him and negotiate were fruitless.

Crockwell said it all started the morning of Dec. 4, 2010 when he suddenly felt so ill with fever that he believed someone had drugged him.

"It just came on so fast," Crockwell, 57, told the jury. He said he does not accept that any sort of "mental illness" was to blame for what happened next.

His sister Catherine Crockwell, who shared the home with him and their mother, has accused him of shoving her down that morning, holding a rifle to the back of her neck and kicking her in the head and face.

Leo Crockwell denied any assault and asked how his sister could have been kicked in the face if a rifle was being held to the back of her neck.

Catherine Crockwell testified that she and her mother ran for help at a nearby garage and that the last thing they wanted to do was call police, but they were afraid to go back in the house. Both women told court that Crockwell was sleepless and showing signs of paranoia in the days leading up to the standoff.

Catherine Crockwell testified that three days earlier, on Dec. 1, 2010, she heard a bang inside the house and later discovered a new hole in a wall that appeared to be from a gun blast.

Leo Crockwell told her that day: "I'm going to waste you away," she testified. Catherine Crockwell said she wasn't intimidated by the remark because her brother often said things he didn't mean.

In his defence summation, Crockwell used his sister's testimony to argue that the comment can't be considered a threat. He also stressed that his sister never saw him fire a gun inside the house.

Crockwell said his mindset during the standoff was that officers must "show a warrant or get out."

Crockwell appeared to fight his emotions as he said he was defending his home under intense stress.

He said a prior tangle with police in 1998 helps explain his response in 2010 "when a similar situation came."

He told the jury that he was illegally detained under the Mental Health Act at the Waterford Hospital psychiatric facility in St. John's in 1998.

Referring to his 2010 actions in the third person, Crockwell said: "He's not moving this time. He's not listening to what they have to say."

He said several Mounties offered inconsistent testimony about whether one or two shots were allegedly fired from the home as officers were hitting the back door with a battering ram on Dec. 8, 2010.

He denied firing on officers, and suggested holes in the screen of a storm door could have been caused by a police robot or by a shot fired at the house from the outside.

RCMP officers also testified that several shots were fired from the house at the police robot over the course of the standoff.

Lawyer Randy Piercey, who was appointed a friend of the court to assist Crockwell, told jurors it's not known if Crockwell would have simply come out of the house had police approached the situation differently. It was an opportunity that wasn't given, he said.

Crockwell has been in custody since he was arrested without incident on Dec. 11, 2010, at a home several kilometres from Bay Bulls. A couple who had given him a ride tipped the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

Judge Richard LeBlanc is to instruct the jury Thursday.