He’s not a folk hero. He needs care.
These are bizarre days on the province’s talk radio circuit. I could go on at length about the strange things going down on the VOCM airwaves but, for today, I’ll restrict myself to Leo Crockwell.
Crockwell, as you may know, is wanted by the RCMP on an outstanding warrant for breach of probation. He has taken to calling VOCM Open Line and Backtalk to declare his innocence, claiming defiantly that the police have it all wrong.
Here was a wanted man placing frequent calls to the public airwaves, so there was a cloak of intrigue about it all.
Until last Saturday, that is, when Telegram reporter James McLeod, acting on a tip, revealed that Crockwell was back home, living in the same green house that was the scene of his 2010 standoff with the RCMP.
You can read the full story here.
Apparently upset with this development, Crockwell called Open Line on Monday morning and spoke to guest host Tim Powers. Here’s a transcript of the relevant bits:
Crockwell: The first thing I want to deal with is Mr. McLeod… Mr. McLeod, the first thing he did – he’s not even permitted on the property. As soon as he walked onto the property he commits a breach of the Privacy Act. And anything he writes about the house, the property, what’s on it and so on is not permitted under law.
Powers: In your interpretation of that, okay.
Crockwell: In anybody’s interpretation. Every citizen of this country, every property owner decides who enters and who doesn’t enter. They have the exclusive right and nobody’s going to challenge that, nobody in this country anywhere. If you’re on the property, out – get out. Move on wherever you’re going. Go back to your own house and your own property, that’s it.
Did you catch that? Crockwell willingly called one media outlet to offer information and answer questions while dissing another reporter for… wanting to ask questions.
So, was McLeod committing “a breach of the Privacy Act"? I have my own opinions about that, but I wondered how McLeod felt about the accusation. I fired off an email and sure enough, he was game for a chat.
“He made a reference to the Privacy Act and sort of said that coming onto his property and reporting on any of this was a violation,” McLeod said. “Obviously I don’t feel quite that way about it. But he definitely didn’t appreciate me being there. All I would say to that is, I showed up to the house, knocked on the door – like any journalist would do under the circumstances – and as soon as he indicated that he wanted me to leave, I left. But I really can’t see any way that knocking on someone’s door and then leaving because they asked you to do so is a violation of somebody’s privacy. Everything I talked about in the piece were things you could have seen from the road or walking up to the house. Obviously he’s got some opinions about this stuff and I don’t know what to say beyond that.”
I can think of a few things to say. To reinforce McLeod’s point, Crockwell is completely wrong. It is not a breach of the Privacy Act to knock on someone’s door. Nor is it a crime to report what you find out upon doing so. Reporters have been doing this for many, many years. It is how they get interviews and discover new information. Where Crockwell gets this idea I don’t know, but it blows a major hole in his credibility.
Think about it. When Crockwell calls VOCM and spouts all that legal jargon, it almost sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. Apparently, sometimes he does. But based on how wildly wrong he is on this point, I would be highly skeptical of everything else he says.
McLeod said the whole situation is “very bizarre.”
“The RCMP was very clear that he is not a danger to the public but, I mean, the man is a fugitive from the law and we’re having a conversation about all this over Open Line radio. From a media perspective, it’s very weird.”
It’s an uncomfortable situation for all involved, McLeod added.
“On the one hand you feel bad for the guy because clearly he’s got some mental health issues and from what I saw of the house… it sure looks like there wasn’t any power to the place and it doesn’t look like there’s any substantial work done since the standoff in 2010. God only knows what the inside looks like but it seems like a pretty unpleasant living situation and you hope the guy gets the help he needs. On the other hand, the man is convicted of shooting at police officers, assaulting his sister and – though he says it’s illegitimate – the bottom line is there’s a warrant out for his arrest.”
McLeod agreed that courts have made legal errors in the past with Crockwell and this adds fuel to his bonfire of discontent with the system.
“You can believe that a warrant is illegitimate, but the correct place to deal with that is in a court of law – not by simply holing up and refusing to cooperate with police.”
That is the bottom line on this sad and tragic story: Crockwell cannot opt out of our legal system simply because he doesn’t agree with it.
In the meantime, Crockwell seems to enjoy folk hero status, generally for his flouting of the law and specifically for his astonishing escape from that heavily-guarded house in Kilbride. Most of us cheered for Crockwell when he pulled that off, and mocked the RCMP for letting it happen.
But please, let’s not forget how volatile the situation was. At the time, Crockwell had barricaded himself in a house and was firing a rifle through the window. He wasn’t targeting police with those shots but nonetheless is lucky to be alive – in some jurisdictions, police would have opened fire and killed the shooter. We mocked the police at the time but the truth is, they showed wisdom and restraint and should be commended for it.
And do I need to remind you of recent events in Moncton? What if Crockwell had snapped and killed one or more police officers? Would he still be hailed as a hero?
Recently, I wrote a series of articles called ‘No More Stigma,’ in which I called for an end to the way society neglects and even torments those afflicted with mental illness, so I will not make any flippant remarks about Crockwell’s condition, only to note that the squalid conditions in that house are not helping his health – probably quite the opposite – and that he needs to get whatever care he needs.
Note: This is my first blog post in a number of weeks. It may be a lazy, hazy summer for some but I’ve never been busier. I apologize for this laxity and will endeavor to post more frequently.