Inquest into Lisa Dudley murder provides no relief for neighbour who reported gunfire

The coroners inquest into the 2008 death of Lisa Dudley wrapped up on Wednesday, but for the only person who reported the gunshots to police, the inquest hasn't delivered relief after a decade of regret.
Erwin Adam was the only person to call police to report gunfire in his Mission neighbourhood in 2008. Four days later, gunshot victim Lisa Dudley was found paralyzed, clinging to life. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

For nearly 10 years, Erwin Adam has been haunted by regret.

Adam was the only person to call police in 2008, after he and his neighbour heard six gunshots in his quiet Mission neighbourhood. He and the neighbour waited on a darkened porch for about 20 minutes to see if police would arrive, or whether they would hear anything else.

They didn't, and it was four days before his neighbour, Lisa Dudley, was found paralyzed, but clinging to life across the street. She didn't survive the trip to hospital.

Dudley had been shot. The police officer dispatched to check out Adam's report never got out of his patrol car and never talked to him.

Since that tragic incident, Adam has wondered whether he could have done more — could he have followed up with police? Could he have checked out Dudley's house himself?

"Those regrets, they stand — they stay with me," he said outside the coroners inquest into Dudley's death, which wrapped up on Wednesday.

Startling testimony

Adam was the first witness to testify at the inquest on Monday, and one of the few people aside from Dudley's family to attend every day and listen to all of the testimony.

This photo of Lisa Dudley, who was killed in a targeted attack in 2008, was entered as evidence at the coroners inquest into her death. (B.C. Coroners Service)

Adam heard the testimony of Cpl. Michael White, the Mission RCMP officer dispatched to respond to the report of gunfire. 

He heard a recording of the dispatch call, in which White could be heard laughing about the report of six gun shots. White later testified the report didn't sound credible. 

He heard White's testimony that he never left his unmarked police cruiser as he circled the neighbourhood in the dark.

Adam heard startling testimony from paramedic Peter Smith, who Dudley asked in her dying moments to pass a message of love to her mother — a message that never reached Dudley's Mom until Tuesday's testimony, a decade later.

He listened to testimony from a self-described "policy wonk" at the RCMP, who explained that the force made an extraordinary change to its operations manual in 2014 as a result of the Dudley case — the change clarifies and formalizes a responding officer's duty to follow up with a complainant, something that didn't happen in 2008 when Adam was the complainant reporting gunfire.

'Looking for some absolution'

But the one thing Adam says he didn't hear that he was hoping to take away from the inquest was whether Dudley could have been saved had she been found sooner.

A crime scene image entered into evidence at the coroners inquest into Lisa Dudley's death shows a sliding glass door at the back of Dudley's home smashed. Dudley was found inside paralyzed in a chair, her dried blood gluing her hair to the upholstery. (B.C. Coroners Service)

"I think through this inquest, I was looking for some absolution — that the doctors would say, 'she wouldn't have made it anyway,' or something like that," he said. "But I don't think that was to be."

The Royal Columbian Hospital pathologist who performed the autopsy on Dudley, Dr. Craig Litwin, was asked directly whether he could conclude that Dudley would have had a better chance at surviving had she received care sooner, but he could not.

Litwin explained that as a pathologist, he's not involved in treatment, and couldn't comment on that possibility, leaving Adam without relief.

"The question that I was truly wanting an answer to was not answered," said Adam. "And that question will never be resolved, I don't think."

The inquest's five-person jury has the ability to make recommendations that may prevent future deaths in similar circumstances.

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