Canadian police killing civilians experiencing some form of distress has become a terribly regular occurrence. On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, Calgary police shot and killed 76-year-old grandfather Bob Crowle. This was the seventh shooting of a civilian by Calgary police so far in 2016 and resulted in the third fatality. Crowle was killed within moments of police encountering him in the garage of his house in the 100 block of Sunmount Crescent SE. The quick use of lethal force against people in distress is another characteristic of police killings of civilians that has become seemingly routine for officers.
Police were apparently responding to a call from the home at around 11 AM. Upon arrival police found an injured youth on the front lawn of the residence. It would later be revealed that the injured youth was Bob Crowle’s 20-year-old grandson. Police claim they heard noise in the garage and upon entering saw a vehicle with the engine running and a hose attached. Bob Crowle was apparently standing outside the car. Police say an eight-year veteran of the force fired at Crowle when he approached them supposedly holding an “edged” object. The victim was declared dead by paramedics soon thereafter. The grandson was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Police accounts do not fit with the experiences of family and friends who knew Bob Crowle. The victim’s sister, Marlene Junck, described the incident as being out of character for her brother. As she knew her brother: “He was a very gentle man” (quoted in Wood and Lumsden 2016). This is a view repeated by others who knew the man killed by police.
Neighbors have uniformly described Bob Crowle as a nice man. He was regularly seen out in his neighborhood walking his dog. In the words of one neighbor, Barb Warrior, Crowle “Would always stop in and say ‘Hi” (quoted in Bell 2016). Continued Warrior: “He had some surgery a few weeks ago and looked to be feeling a little off but he was still out walking his dogs this past week” (quoted in Bell 2016).
According to neighbor Wendy Rudko, Crowle was a “good person” (Wood and Lumsden 2016). In her view: “Just such a nice man. He was walking in the neighbourhood all the time — he walked down my back alley a lot — out walking his dog, multiple times a day” (quoted in Wood and Lumsden 2016).
Another neighbor identified Crowle as the “nicest guy ever” and a calm, easy-going neighbor” who picked and shared apples with neighbors but said he had had a rough time recently when his daughter and her son moved into the home he shared with his wife (quoted in Bell 2016). According to that neighbor: “He had a rough time with his grandson. I think he was driven to the edge. I think his grandson pushed him to the edge” (quoted in Bell 2016).
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the office that examines police harm to civilians in the province is investigating this killing. They do so in an environment in which Calgary police have shot and killed several people during the year. In addition the Calgary force’s chief has issued fairly open threats to police whistleblowers.
Bell, David. 2016. “76-Year-Old Man Armed with ‘Large-Edged Weapon’ Shot by Police.” CBC News. October 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-shooting-sundance-1.3800154
Wood, Damien and Michael Lumsden. 2016. “Calgary Police Respond to 911 Call, Find Young Man Seriously Wounded, Fatally Shoot Grandfather, 76.” National Post. October 12. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/calgary-police-respond-to-frantic-911-call-find-young-man-seriously-wounded-fatally-shoot-76-year-old