Analysis: A Social War Military Assault

Apr 30, 2024

Analysis: A Social War Military Assault

The Police Killings of Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson
Vancouver TAV

Emergency Response Team (ERT) officers shot and killed Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson on March 29, 2019, in the home they had shared in Surrey, British Columbia. Police describe the context of the killings as a “hostage taking,” but this has never been fully confirmed. This is a notorious case of police killing civilians, and one that should be well known across the country — in part because of the extent of police deception afterwards. For more than a month after the killings, police spokespeople publicly implied that Randy Crosson had killed Nona McEwan.

Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) spokesperson corporal Frank Jang even told the Surrey Now-Leader, “there was two deaths, one believed to be a police-involved shooting, one is not.” However, the lie was eventually put to the police story when BC’s police oversight agency reported that ERT had shot and killed both McEwan and Crosson. Only police had firearms and only police fired. Clearly, officers at the scene and IHIT member Jang must have known that police had done the shooting.

On April 16, 2024, almost five years after the killing, the coroner’s inquest into the police killings started, and I covered each day of it. The almost two weeks of testimony by the police officers involved revealed a military operation of social war, complete with multiple armoured vehicles, snipers, explosives, robots, dogs, and high-powered weapons. What it did not reveal was a single word of conversation shared between police and victims, nor any on-site mental health providers.

The social war operation — policing as a mechanism of pacification and control deployed largely against poor, Indigenous, and racialized communities — that targeted two poor people in a crisis situation ended, predictably, with extreme violence. Jurors and observers listened in horror as police members of the militarily named “Alpha” team fired 40 rounds in 10 seconds, in close quarters and poor lighting, with the alleged hostage on top of her hostage taker. Hostage rescue (military police-style) apparently includes killing the hostage.

A Social War Framework

It was established right at the start that the policing operation against Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson was conceived and deployed in a military, social war framework, in the testimony of the person who oversaw the operation, Critical Incident Commander, Inspector Blair White. In his policing career, White has served as a police officer in Calgary and with the RCMP E Division, which covers British Columbia. White spent seven years in the tactical unit in Calgary and, notably, was part of the militarized G8 security planning team in Kananaskis in 2002. In military terms, White described himself as the “spearhead” in the siege and assault on McEwan and Crosson. The ERT teams also have military designations, "Alpha" and "Bravo."

White testified that critical incident training involves two weeks working the military planning tool SMEAC. In addition, White said that critical incident teams receive training from other notorious military social war forces, such as the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Las Vegas Metro.

The SMEAC system, as White stated, is drawn directly from the military. The acronym stands for: S (Situation), M (Mission), E (Execution), A (Administration and Logistics), and C (Command and communications). The military use the SMEAC system to document orders and instructions for field operations, passing information on to troops. SMEAC is used by the Canadian Armed Forces, United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Navy Seabees. It is also used by police engaged in social war in our communities.

White arrived on scene and put out the SMEAC mission that would guide police actions from that point on. He also had a tactical armoured vehicle (TAV) deployed and moved to the front lawn of the residence. Attempted communications with Nona McEwan and/or Randy Crosson would occur through a loud hailer in the armoured vehicle. ERT then tried to break down the front door with the TAV. None of this would have been in any way calming for people in crisis.

Eventually, White had yet another armoured vehicle brought in from nearby Abbotsford. He also had a sniper placed on the bedroom side of the house. White discussed explosive force entry, which he called “glamorous.” It was decided they would place explosive charges in the bedroom window and hallway door.

Notably, while with the Calgary Police Service (CPS) years before, White made a name for himself pushing for a new armoured vehicle for that city’s force. This was at a cost of $300,000 per vehicle. White described the TAV as critical and irreplaceable. In his estimation, the TAV was responding to around 50 barricade calls, 300 high risk calls, and 200 warrant services calls per year — and growing. Trying, less than convincingly, to assuage community concerns about weapons of war on the streets, he suggested: “We try to be as effective and as efficient with its deployment as possible, and we do respect the public’s thoughts about para-militarization — we don’t just drive it around.”

At the same time, White made clear while in Calgary that cops become accustomed to using it. 'If you’ve got it, use it,' seemed to be the logic. According to White, “I don’t know what we would do without it. It’s that sense of comfort. It’s a security blanket in an incident where there’s potential for gunfire and risk to the public.”

While armoured vehicles might give cops a sense of comfort, we cannot and should not expect the same when it comes to people in crisis being confronted by something visually resembling a tank.

The operation was driven by a desire to gain tactical advantage as quickly as possible, to gain tactical compliance. This despite the fact that over the course of over seven hours they had no communication with either McEwan or Crosson, and never did confirm that they were dealing with a real hostage situation.

In case you had any questions about the value placed on mental health supports in a situation in which mental health crises and drug use were believed to play a part, White confirmed how little these factor into policing “tactics.” He even went so far as to say that mental health practitioners and discussions with them are mere “minutia.” In combat terms, he said that at some point “public expectations” want a resolution. Apparently even if that “resolution” is the death of civilians, in his view.

A Social War Massacre: 40 Shots in 10 Seconds

When it became clear to police that shouting at someone through a loud hailer mounted on an armoured vehicle was not going to end the crisis, the military operation moved to its commando-style invasion phase, with ERT members armed to the teeth. In full military stye, they entered on the go-command, “Lightning, lightning, lightning.” It was, quite straightforwardly, a blitz, complete with explosive charges and with flashbang devices thrown into the room.

Testimony from each ERT member to breach the bedroom with McEwan and Crosson inside drew a picture of a chaotic, violent, shambles.  One officer, Cst. Chris Dibblee, fired off 14 shots, just himself. Another testified to shooting as he fell. Several police said they thought that Randy Crosson was firing at them because his arm was moving. During questioning, they seemed to have no awareness of how a body could be expected to respond to receiving multiple shots simultaneously, or how a body being struck so many times might twitch or shudder. Crosson was likely dead almost immediately, given the number of shots to the head he received within seconds of police entry. Yet cops continued to fire.

The physical damage inflicted on Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson was unspeakable. Evidence from the forensic psychologist’s report presented during the inquest showed that Randy Crosson was shot 39 times in his head alone. There were so many wounds that the specific paths of each bullet could not be traced — bullet paths were overlapping and crisscrossing. Nona McEwan, whose rescue police said was priority one, received two wounds, each of which could have been fatal.

Cop “Spidey Sense” and Section 25

Despite their military-style training and framework, Bravo team seemed overly panicked and appeared to freak out, both in preparing for entry and upon entry. Some of the most chilling, and telling, testimony came from Cpl. Andrew Michaud, the leader of kill team “Bravo.” He sounded very rehearsed and performative in his testimony. Along the way, he suggested that he had a “Spidey Sense” on operations. He says he’s had it his whole life. Michaud, who said he was trained by US SWAT teams, made a range of assumptions about bogus “suicide by cop” regarding Randy Crosson, whom he referred to as a “bad guy.” He said, though he had nothing to base this on, that Randy was “ready for war.” He created fantasies and imagined Randy had an expanded magazine in his gun (which was actually an airsoft).

Michaud’s troubling testimony showed a level of panic. When he appointed Cst. Chris Dibblee as first in, Michaud said this “was his saying ‘goodbye’ and ‘you’re going to die.” He believed the first 2 would be killed but maybe the 3rd would get him. He even pictured them all being shot and falling like dominoes. At the same time, Michaud saw this as “Stanley Cup Finals, game 7.” Even after shooting Randy multiple times in the head, Michaud believed, “We were getting killed.”

Even this testimony has a tactical purpose, however. It is clearly aimed at reinforcing Section 25 protections. As is almost universally the case when police kill, they point to Section 25 of the Criminal Code. Under Section 25, “a police officer is justified in using force to effect a lawful arrest, as long as the officer acts on reasonable and probable grounds.” Reasonable grounds are “that it is necessary for the self-preservation of the person or the preservation of any one under that person’s protection from death or grievous bodily harm.” So, when cops kill, they say they were scared they would die. Regardless of circumstances, they simply have to feel it. Inspector White told officers they had Section 25 protection early in the operation.


Not surprisingly, this being a coroner’s inquest where the terms of reference are too narrowly limited, there were no recommendations or even criticisms of the social war model and order of policing during a crisis in which poor and criminalized people are involved. Police are able to control the narrative according to their own interests. Jurors often seem enamoured with the police stories and only police comment on the details (limited) and effectiveness of their training and practice.

Police also have the benefit of legal counsel, as the Attorney General’s Office of Canada has lawyers present and participating. Meanwhile, families often have no representation at all. A poignant moment occurred on the first day of this inquest as Nona McEwan’s son, Brandon McEwan, ended his testimony and stormed out of the court over obnoxious questioning from the RCMP lawyers.

The police siege and raid that killed Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson, and the deceptive statements by police in the months afterwards, should stand as a lesson and warning to us. Police are training and deploying as military forces waging social war against poor and marginalized people in our communities and this inquest showed the depth and extent of the entire rotten framework that shapes, justifies, and reproduces this.

Jeff Shantz is a long-time anti-authoritarian organizer, researcher, and writer who lives and works on Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo territories (Surrey, British Columbia).

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