British Columbia

Son of hostage killed in RCMP gunfire testifies at B.C. coroner's inquest

Brandon McEwan, Nona McEwan's son, testified in person Tuesday at a B.C. coroner's inquest into his mother's death in March 2019. McEwan was killed in a hail of RCMP gunfire after she was taken hostage.

Police gunfire killed Randy Crosson and girlfriend Nona McEwan, who was taken hostage in 2019

A photo of a woman look straight towards the camera. She has brown hair, bangs and blue eyes.
Nona McEwan died after being accidentally shot by police trying to rescue her from boyfriend Randy Crosson, who had taken her hostage in their Surrey home in 2019. Crosson was also killed by police gunfire. (Nona McEwan/Facebook)

A B.C. coroner's jury heard that a man who held his partner hostage and died in a spray of RCMP gunfire was a loving man who didn't have the opportunity to recover from his drug addictions.

A statement written by Jamie Perrin was read at the opening of the coroner's inquest into the deaths of his father Randy Crosson and Crosson's girlfriend Nona McEwan in a home in Surrey, B.C., in March 2019.

Perrin's statement said his father had a hard life and "didn't have the opportunities to get better and to get clean."

"What you are about to hear is about a man on drugs, struggling with life. But this was not my dad," he said in the statement on Tuesday.

"My dad was a loving, caring person who loved all us kids. I'm sorry for what he has done with life but hopefully today we can learn from this."

A police officer poses by two vehicles parked outside a home.
Surrey RCMP officers are seen outside the home in the 13300 block of 98A Avenue in March 2019. The coroner's inquest heard how police gunfire hit McEwan, who was being held hostage by Randy Crosson. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

B.C.'s police watchdog cleared police of wrongdoing in a report that said RCMP officers shot and killed Crosson, but also accidentally hit McEwan with two bullets. She later died in hospital.

The Independent Investigations Office said McEwan's death was because of the actions of Crosson, who held her in front of him as a shield against police bullets.

Its report said officers entered a home and found Crosson holding a knife to the woman's neck with what appeared to be a gun in his other hand.

The office said a number of officers shot at Crosson, killing him at the scene, but McEwan was accidentally struck.

Forensic investigators at the scene would later find what the report describes as "a realistic-looking replica pistol."

'A great mother'

Brandon McEwan, Nona McEwan's son, testified in person Tuesday that his mother was much loved and always tried to do at least one good deed a day.

"She was a great mother. We always had food in our stomach, a roof over our head. We always had clothes on our back and things that we needed or wanted," he said through tears.

It was Brandon McEwen who called 911 the night of the police shooting because his father, who lived in a trailer on the same property where Nona McEwan and Crosson lived, heard a loud bang and a scream.

McEwen testified that he told the 911 operator that he believed his mom wasn't safe inside the home with her boyfriend, who he thought had a gun.

The jury heard that Crosson had previously been in a fight with Brandon McEwen's father and was told to leave the house.

Sgt. Chris Payette, a supervisor with the Surrey RCMP at the time, testified that they tried to get a response from anyone inside the house, making phone calls and banging on the walls with a metal tool. But they were not successful.

That led to the decision to call the emergency response team, who are better trained to enter a home, he said.

Brandon McEwen testified he stood a block away watching as a "tank" was brought in, and heard multiple flashbangs near the site.

McEwen told a lawyer representing the RCMP that he didn't see the flashbangs or tear gas being deployed, but officers standing with him at the time explained what he was hearing.

"These guys are supposed to be trained professionals, and they didn't seem that professional in my eyes," he said.

Yellow police tape stretches across a property.
Part of the property in the 13300 block of 98A Avenue is covered with an orange tarp behind crime scene tape after a hostage-taking left two people dead inside the home on March 29, 2019. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Kali Cosmo, who lived in an apartment in the basement of the house, said Crosson "terrorized her" while she lived there, often yelling and staying up late into the night, and leaving "mean notes" on her car.

She told the jury that in the days leading up to police confrontation, Nona McEwen was pleased because Crosson was supposed to be leaving the house and "she expressed happiness that she would be able to discover herself and live for herself."

The jury heard that Crosson was diagnosed as bipolar at a time when he was in federal prison.

His former probation officer, Robert Ryhorchuk, testified that Crosson had a criminal record dating back to 1996, including break-ins, theft and assault — as well as numerous convictions for failing to comply with court orders and carrying a weapon.

Ryhorchuk said Crosson had used drugs, mainly heroin and crystal meth, since his late teens.

In 2003, he was convicted of assaulting McEwan and released on probation. At the time he told his probation officer that he threw a sandwich at her.

The inquest is expected to continue for two weeks.

Inquest juries do not place blame but have the option to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths from happening in the future.