Standoff anniversary

Colin MacLean
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Members of the RCMP pump water into the Bay Bulls home where Leo Crockwell had barricaded himself in in December 2010. The water was just one tactic the RCMP used during the eight-day standoff. — Telegram file photo

One year ago Dec. 4, an altercation allegedly took place between Leo Crockwell and his sister at their mother's Bay Bulls home.

What followed was an eight-day standoff between Crockwell, holed up in the house, and a large contingent of RCMP officers surrounding the property.

The RCMP spent days trying to get Crockwell to come out, and when that failed they tried to force him out by cutting the power and eventually flooding the house.

When the standoff was finally over and the smoke had cleared, Crockwell had escaped, giving the RCMP a public relations black eye.

His mother's home was all but destroyed.

Crockwell was arrested at a house in the Goulds Dec. 10, 2010.

One year later, he's still in jail awaiting the beginning of his trial, set for Feb. 2, 2012, as the case slowly makes its way through the system.

Crockwell declined The Telegram's request for an interview, as did the RCMP, citing the ongoing court proceedings.

But some of Crockwell's friends and family had plenty to say.

When asked if he was thinking about the anniversary of the standoff, Leo's brother Bill Crockwell sighed.

"Yes and no," he said.

"It's not something that's foremost in your mind - not in my mind, anyway. You know that these things take time. Anyway ... things are starting to move with the house now (as it is being repaired). ... Let's get that to a point where it can be moved back into and sort of pick up the pieces from there."

Still, he thinks about Dec. 4, 2010 once in a while.

Leo being sent to jail and the damage to the house were huge blows to the family, he said.

"There was a lot of adjustment and there's still parts of that adjustment ongoing. ... He was a large part of their lives at that time and he's been gone basically a year."

Bill visits his brother at Her Majesty's Penitentiary every weekend. He says he's well, despite being frustrated with his incarceration and the sluggish pace of the justice system.

"He's doing pretty good," Bill said.

"It's a strange position to be in when you're not accustomed to it.

"But he's holding up pretty good. It's like anybody - you've got good days and bad days."

Bill hopes the court process will end favourably for his brother, but says how long that could take is anyone's guess.

Crockwell will be tried by judge and jury, but he and his lawyer had a difference of opinion and parted ways, and he was chastised by the judge at his last court appearance for not having found another one quick enough.

Bill is just glad his brother is alive and well enough to take part in court proceedings. He is thankful the standoff ended the way it did.

"My original comments were that everyone ended up safe. That was the hope that we had when we realized what was going on down there. The handling, I think it's fortunate from a lot of sides and a lot perspectives, 'cause things could have turned out a lot differently," he said.

"Timing could have been the difference between life and death, it's as simple as that."

When Leo Crockwell made some of his first court appearances, his friend and neighbour, Chris Ryan, was often on hand for moral support.

Ryan thinks about the standoff a lot, and says some of Crockwell's friends are getting together to reminisce about it.

"Most likely it will be an anniversary that will be celebrated every year going forward," he said.

He has strong feelings about how Crockwell's case has panned out so far, and is particularly upset that his friend was denied bail.

"Leo Crockwell should not be in jail, it's ridiculous," he said.

"When you sit down and think about it, what did Leo Crockwell do? Leo Crockwell done nothing to cause what went on in Bay Bulls for those seven days."

There are people in this province, he said, who have been charged with more serious crimes than Crockwell has who have gotten bail.

The judge's reasoning for denying Crockwell bail has not been made public.

Ryan also questions how the RCMP handled the situation, saying if they had backed off from the house the situation could have ended far more peaceably.

"Why did they not leave that man alone for three or four or five hours and let him cool down?" said Ryan.

"He wasn't up sitting in his window ledge brandishing a gun, threatening anybody. He was in the house being silent. Why didn't they go talk to a few of the hands, a few of his buddies and say, 'Listen here, go in and ask Leo to come out, we want him.' And he would have," he said.

The RCMP said throughout the standoff and afterwards that its primary goal was to arrest Crockwell and to do it in a way so that no one got hurt.

When questioned about the strategy at the time, RCMP spokespeople said the initial complaint that brought them to the Crockwell home involved an alleged assault with a weapon. Because of the possibility of the further use of weapons, they did not take any chances.

Ann Marie Puddister had a bird's-eye view of the standoff from her home on a hill behind the Crockwell house. She's known Leo Crockwell all her life and, like Ryan, believes he could have been talked down much sooner.

"The consensus is that Leo is not a bad guy - he's not. He's no worse than you or me or anybody else," said Puddister.

"Everybody doesn't have a good day every day, and I have a lot of bad days myself. I'm sure that on any given occasion we could all end up in a situation like that."


Organizations: RCMP, The Telegram, Crockwell house

Geographic location: Bay Bulls, Goulds

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Recent comments

  • broadpowers
    January 05, 2012 - 12:53

    Did Leo actually escape from police, or did he just walk out of his mother's house to avoid a repeat of his unlawful arrest by police a few years earlier under the NL Mental Health Act? Note to police; don't abuse the Mental Health Act, certain laws are in place for a reason.

  • broadpowers
    December 30, 2011 - 22:22

    Did Leo ever get the police records from his unlawful arrest under the NL mental health act? This should shut the case down instantly!

  • paul
    December 04, 2011 - 10:39

    Are we supposed to be celebrating this guy. Had the community shut down had firearms, and now playing with the Justice system. get a lawyer mr Crockwell and get the matter dealt with

  • Jeremiah
    December 03, 2011 - 14:31

    Was the house ever repaired?

  • sam
    December 03, 2011 - 14:17

    people charged with rape and murder even get bail.but if you mock the rcmp like leo did there;s no bail for you.

    • canadafirstaid
      December 04, 2011 - 07:29

      Question, if you please, what would you do - if you were the judge and said o.k. 'We'll allow bail'. So, buddy (for whatever reason) decides to escape, again. He escaped once already and everyone asked WHY? Clearly based solely on that escape - Can he be considered anything other then an escape risk? cfa