Police had to switch to Plan B after a shot was fired
Leo Crockwell — Telegram photo
Given what he knew about Leo Crockwell and what had happened so far during the standoff with police, RCMP Staff Sgt. Tom Power said there was no way officers or anyone else was going in that house while he was in command.
"Absolutely not," Power testified Friday during Crockwell's trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's.
"I did not (give authority to have officers) enter the house. ... It was too dangerous."
Power, who was incident commander in charge of operations during the first half of Crockwell's eight-day standoff at his mother's house in Bay Bulls, said when he arrived on the scene Dec. 4, 2010, Crockwell had reportedly barricaded himself inside the house, had fired a gun and assaulted his sister.
During Power's five days on duty, attempts to communicate with Crockwell were unsuccessful.
He called for the emergency response team to be deployed due to reports of a firearm having been discharged.
In the days that followed, he decided to evacuate houses in the area, set up a perimeter around the house and put a spike belt under the tires of Crockwell's pickup truck.
"Eyes were on the house in case Mr. Crockwell decided to exit the property," said Power, who is now retired.
"We did not want him going mobile. He wasn't to leave the property with a firearm. It was out of concern for public safety."
When negotiations were unsuccessful, Power said he gave approval for officers to use tear gas in an attempt to get Crockwell out of the house.
"It was the other option available, other than to have people go in the house," he said. "But I never even considered that due to the risk - the fact that a firearm had been discharged."
On Dec. 8, he gave the OK for the emergency response team to attempt "a partial breach" of the house through the back door.
"We saw (from the video camera balls thrown into the house by officers) that Mr. Crockwell was partially incapacitated. It was an opportunity to bring an end to the situation," said Power, who said they planned to use a Taser on Crockwell.
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But then shots were fired from inside the house, so he ordered the team to back off due to the high risk.
"We were concerned for the safety of all the people involved, as well as Mr. Crockwell ...
"I felt it was too dangerous," said Power, adding the connection had been lost through the video balls inside the house.
When Crown prosector Elizabeth Ivany asked if the police had ever considered withdrawing from the property, Power replied, "No. I didn't know what would transpire if Mr. Crockwell left the house with firearms, so no, I did not consider it."
All his decisions, he said, were made in consultation with the various teams on-scene.
During cross-examination, Crockwell, who is representing himself, asked Power how the police had concluded so early on that it was a barricade situation.
Power said it was because of the reports he had received that Crockwell had been inside the house with firearms and had assaulted his sister. He said he didn't know Crockwell's intentions.
"It's a very high risk to approach the house if you don't know (what) to expect on the other side," Power said.
Crockwell has been in custody since his arrest on Dec. 11, 2010, after he slipped out of a side window of the house undetected.
He's pleaded not guilty to several charges - assault with a weapon, using a firearm while committing an assault and uttering threats towards his sister, along with mischief by interfering with property, careless use of a firearm, possessing a firearm without a licence and intentionally discharging a firearm.
The latter charge carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison, if he's convicted.
The testimony continues Tuesday.
Justice Richard LeBlanc told the jury Friday that the trial may wrap up by the end of next week.
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