Jurors who heard this week about a woman who spent four days paralyzed and dying inside her home in rural British Columbia say police and their dispatchers need to review how they handle serious calls.
A coroner’s inquest heard that two RCMP officers responded to a call about shots fired in Mission, B.C., in 2008, but did not get out of their vehicles to investigate or contact the neighbour who called 911.
Inside the home, 37-year-old Lisa Dudley and her boyfriend Guthrie McKay had been shot in an attack over a marijuana grow-op in their home. McKay died immediately but Dudley was paralyzed and lay in the home for four days until a neighbour checked in and called for help.
Dudley died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
The inquest issued its written verdict Thursday night, ruling Dudley’s death a homicide and saying she had died of gunshot wounds to her head and neck.
Jurors also made nine recommendations, including that RCMP explore policies around following up on calls about “potential grievous bodily harm” like shootings and stabbings, and look at increased training if such policies are already in place.
A recording was played at the hearing this week where Cpl. Michael White, then a constable with seven years of experience, laughed with a police dispatcher about a 911 call made by Dudley’s neighbour.
“Six gunshots in a row and a crash,” the officer said before laughing.
“Yeah, exactly. Don’t you love this?” the dispatcher replied.
Monique Pongracic-Speier, a lawyer for Dudley’s family, asked White whether he thought a shots-fired call was funny.
“No, it’s not funny,” he told the inquest. “I was skeptical.”
White told the five-member jury he had reservations about the call because it was an unusually high number of gunshots and it had only been reported by one neighbour. It could have been firecrackers or another unknown noise, he said.
The RCMP later gave the officer a written reprimand and docked him a day’s pay as punishment.
|Rosemarie Surakka outside court after Thomas Holden was found guilty on Feb. 10, 2017. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media|
The juror’s verdict said the force should implement a mandatory routine review and training on “First Response Investigations Policy” at all levels.
The inquest also recommended that the Mounties’ dispatch service procedures and training make sure employees “properly and thoroughly document all details reported by a complainant,” and that all calls are recorded and can be made public under access to information laws.
RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the recommendations.
The inquest also made suggestions for B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety, saying the office should review how complaints of potential grievous bodily harm are investigated by all police agencies across the province, and explore implementing mandatory training for responding to those complaints.
Jurors also wanted to see BC Emergency Health Services explore options for “a designated air ambulance that is better equipped to allow patient care during transport,” the inquest’s verdict said.
Neither the Ministry of Public Safety or BC Emergency Health Services was immediately available to comment on the recommendations.
Dudley’s stepfather, Mark Surakka, said outside the inquest on Monday that he did not expect to get justice from the process but was hoping to find some answers.
The goal of an inquest is not to lay blame, but to determine the events that led to a person’s death and potentially make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press