A man at the centre of an 18-hour-long police standoff in Whitehorse’s Arkell neighbourhood last week says he was asleep for most of the incident — and that the RCMP “most definitely” over-reacted to the situation.
The Whitehorse RCMP detachment commander, though, says he’s “confident” police handled the situation properly.
In an interview April 30, Evan Grant said he was the subject of an April 23 call to police about, according to a RCMP press release, a “distraught man who may be a danger to himself.”
The report triggered a response that included Whitehorse RCMP, the Police Dog Unit and members of the Emergency Response Team (ERT) from both the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, the release said, and police also evacuated neighbouring houses and placed three nearby schools in hold-and-secure mode as officers “attempted to make contact with the individual throughout the night and into the morning.”
However, Grant said, he had just gone to sleep with his phone turned off, something police could have determined if they had “knocked on the door” or allowed family members into his house to check on him.
“It’s just stupid, stupid, stupid, and I really don’t want to see anybody else put in the same position in Whitehorse,” he said, adding that his life has been “ruined” as a result.
According to Grant, the situation was the result of a fight that he and his wife, Amy, had a few days prior, which culminated in her leaving with their children to stay at a friend’s home.
By April 23, Grant said, he had “a little nervous episode” and called his wife, telling her, “You’re taking my life away from me and you’re ruining it and you’ve taken my girls and I don’t know if I’d want to live without my girls.”
Grant said his wife asked him if he was going to hurt himself and he responded by saying that while there were guns in the house, he wouldn’t be doing that.
“So a little short discussion later, a couple more tears and whatnot and frustration, and I said, ‘I can’t talk to you anymore, it’s too much,’ and I just hung up on her,” Grant said. “At that point in time I turned off my phone for the evening, I took a sleeping pill and an antidepressant and I fell asleep because I had only slept … three hours the previous two nights.”
Concerned by the conversation’s abrupt ending, Grant’s wife went to the house and tried to get Grant to come to the door. When she was unable to, she called Grant’s son, who had spare keys but was in Teslin that day, before going to Grant’s father’s house to ask him to check on Grant or call police.
The News spoke to Amy, who did not want to comment for this story but confirmed Grant’s version of events.
Yukon RCMP spokesperson Coralee Reid said police received a call just before 5 p.m. April 23 about “a man in distress who may be a danger to himself.”
Grant’s son, John, said he arrived back in Whitehorse from Teslin just before 7 p.m., intending to go to his father’s house to check on him.
“I informed (police) I had the house keys … but as soon as the RCMP were involved, we weren’t allowed to go near the house,” he said. As the night went on with no developments, John said other family members also offered to go unlock the house but were told by police they weren’t allowed to.
“They kept us waiting that whole night and they hadn’t done anything.… It was the most stressful night I’ve ever had,” John said, adding he would have liked to see police “unlock the door and actually check on him and make contact.”
Grant, however, said he was unaware of what was happening until he woke up around 8 a.m. and turned his phone on to see he’d missed 11 phone calls and 16 messages, including some from the RCMP.
After looking out the window and seeing ERT members, Grant said he called 911 and told the operator that he did not and was not going to harm himself. After that, he said he saw the ERT “back off,” but when he left his house just before 11 a.m. to get to a doctor’s appointment, ERT members “popped up” from his neighbours’ yards, guns pointed, and arrested him.
Grant said he was taken to Whitehorse General Hospital for a psychiatric assessment and released less than a hour later with a clean bill of health.
“(The RCMP) just blew it out of proportion,” Grant said.
“Is this the kind of thing they’re going to do, they’re going to fly an (Emergency Response Team) in every single time somebody says, you know, they’re feeling depressed and they miss their kids and they can’t live without them?”
He added that, even though he gave police his house keys after they arrested him, they “smashed” both doors in to get into his house anyway, causing $3,000 in damage.
In a phone interview May 1, Whitehorse RCMP Insp. Keith MacKinnon said he was “aware that the concerns have been raised” but would not comment on the specifics of the case due to privacy and operational concerns. However, he said the police response “absolutely” met RCMP standards.
“The use of the police resources in dealing with these situations are measured (approaches) based on the need and requirements in the specific situation, and in this case, I’m fully confident that the officers that responded did so properly,” he said.
“I’m confident that this situation was handled properly and that our members made sure that we achieved the main goal … of protecting the interests of the public and respecting the individuals involved. I’m very confident.”
Grant, however, said the experience has left such a bitter taste in his mouth that he and his wife, who have since reconciled, have decided to move out of the territory.
“I’m very sad to leave, but I think under the circumstances, it’s time for a change,” he said. “I love the Yukon, I love the people here, but I can’t deal with the RCMP anymore.… Like, if the RCMP are making these decisions, what faith can we have in the RCMP at all?”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org