A weeklong police standoff at a home in Newfoundland late last year cost more than $400,000 before the Mounties lost their man.
An estimate released under access-to-information laws says the RCMP spent $444,041 on the December siege that ended with the embarrassing escape of suspect Leo Crockwell.
The price tag includes $364,356 for police overtime costs, $39,380 to cover travel expenses for police backup and tactical reinforcements, and $40,305 for purchases including food, water and lighting.
The tally isn’t final. The Mounties say in the document that undisclosed “outstanding claims against the Crown” have yet to be resolved and included.
Crockwell, 55, fled undetected from the side window of the home in Bay Bulls the night of Dec. 10 as police were pumping 272,000 litres of cold water inside to flush him out.
They had already tried using pepper spray and noisemakers to get him to leave and talked to him through a negotiator, using a robot that was allegedly fired at from inside the home.
Crockwell was arrested the next day by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary about 18 kilometres away. He faces 16 charges, including five counts of attempted murder relating to shots fired during the standoff.
The RCMP put the best cast on Crockwell’s night flight as it became instant fodder for national headlines and Internet mockery. The Mounties stressed that he was ultimately arrested without injury.
“Our goal was to ensure a safe arrest,” RCMP Sgt. Wayne Newell said Monday.
“We knew from the outset that the accused had access to weapons and that presented us with a very dangerous situation. We knew that any use of force at the outset would have resulted most likely in grievous bodily harm or death.
“The RCMP exercised restraint to ensure a peaceful resolution. And in the final analysis, nobody got hurt.”
Police work can be pricey, Newell said.
“This is sometimes the cost of doing business. This was an eight-day standoff that took place over 24 hours a day. And, you know, it’s hard to put a price tag on public safety.”
“We knew from the outset that the accused had access to weapons and that presented us with a very dangerous situation. We knew that any use of force at the outset would have resulted most likely in grievous bodily harm or death." - RCMP Sgt. Wayne Newell
Halifax Regional Police is investigating how the siege went awry and will report in the coming months.
Police found two shotguns and ammunition near the home after Crockwell escaped.
“The police were very patient and considerate and they listened to the people who wanted no harm done,” Bay Bulls Mayor Harold Mullowney said in an interview.
“I think that was all a good thing. The fact that Leo got out while the place was being blasted with water cannons — I mean, that was a bit of a problem, no doubt. But what would the alternative have been?”
Police have said their use of water to flood the Crockwell home displaced some officers from the security perimeter and interfered with audio surveillance.
Crockwell’s escape was caught on police video around 8:54 p.m. on Dec. 10, but it was the next day before the Mounties realized he’d given them the slip.
A stranger who’d given him a ride to buy cigarettes alerted police in St. John’s. He was arrested at a home nearby.
Crockwell was alone inside his elderly mother’s house after the RCMP were called to a domestic dispute involving his sister. He is charged with several counts of assault in that matter, including assault with a weapon.
Several businesses around the Crockwell home, including a grocery store and hair salon, were closed while the standoff continued.
Friends of Crockwell’s who supported him in court said he’s a mentally troubled, but gentle man who could have been coaxed into surrendering.
Mullowney said contractors appear to be assessing whether the Crockwell home can be saved.
“I’m hoping at the end of the day the RCMP will step up and cover some of it.”