RCMP overreacted, Bay Bulls neighbour says

Friends of a man charged with the attempted murder of police officers during a weeklong standoff south of St. John's say RCMP over-reacted in how it dealt with Leo Crockwell.

Friends of a man charged with the attempted murder of police officers during a week-long standoff south of St. John's say RCMP overreacted in how it dealt with Leo Crockwell.

The Bay Bulls man is expected to appear Tuesday in provincial court in St. John's for a bail hearing. The Crown opposes release for Crockwell, 55, who has an extended history of mental illness and now faces 16 criminal charges.

Neighbour Chris Ryan said the RCMP should have used different tactics rather than setting up a blockade outside the Bay Bulls house on Dec. 4 after Crockwell allegedly assaulted and threatened his sister.

"Leo Crockwell has never hurt nobody in his life, and Leo Crockwell will never, ever hurt anybody in his life," said Ryan.

RCMP said Crockwell had access to two rifles, one of them equipped with a scope, and a shotgun. Shots were fired at RCMP officers during the standoff and, earlier, on four occasions at a robot the Mounties used in failed attempts to communicate with Crockwell.

Show of support

Ryan and other neighbours were planning to attend court as a show of support for Crockwell, whom Ryan described as a misunderstood man.

"If you did not know Leo Crockwell and you were following this story from afar, you'd think you were dealing with a monster; and you're certainly not," Ryan said.

"He's a gentleman's gentleman in Bay Bulls, I can guarantee you that."

Crockwell was arrested on the outskirts of St. John's early Saturday afternoon, about 15 hours after he slipped through a window as RCMP officers were flooding the Bay Bulls house with cold water.

RCMP officers did not know Crockwell had evaded them until the next day, when the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary found Crockwell at his brother's house.

Ryan said it is important for Crockwell to know he is not alone.

'Lost and lonely'

"He looked lost and lonely [Sunday] when he was in court," Ryan told CBC News.

"It'll be nice now for him to look out in the audience and to see a few of his friends from Bay Bulls there to show that he's not alone in this battle; that we're there to support him."

The RCMP has defended how it handled the standoff, noting that all of its decisions were made to avoid a violent confrontation with Crockwell, who was involuntarily admitted to a St. John's psychiatric hospital in 1998 after threatening a coworker.

Residents of Bay Bulls have had different reactions to the police operation, including Crockwell's escape.

"Flooding the house — I think that's pushing it a bit too far," said Gerard Mulcahy.

Novalee Colbert, whose hair salon was closed during the standoff because RCMP had shut down roads, said Crockwell's escape has raised questions about safety and security.

"I have a 10-year-old daughter and we were telling her that if he gets out, the cops are there, they will get him," she told CBC News.

"And then he got away, she was disappointed — it was scary to her, that the cops weren't able to get him, and they had so many police officers around."

An external review has been launched of how the RCMP managed the standoff.

The force said Crockwell escaped from his house while police were trying to flush him out of the house by flooding it with water. Some officers who had been placed around the perimeter were asked to hold the hose, and no one noticed Crockwell leaving. Police video later pinpointed how and when Crockwell escaped.