Mission woman with gunshot wounds
left dying for 4 days after 911 call

90 hours later, Lisa Cheryl Dudley was found
in the final moments of her life

Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun, August 26, 2009


Lisa Cheryl Dudley of Mission, B.C.,
who died on September 22, 2008.
Photo: Handout.


For four days after being shot in her Mission home last September, Lisa Cheryl Dudley sat gravely wounded, unable to move, glued to the chair by her own pooling blood.

Neighbours heard the shots and shouting and dialed 911.

Police drove to the area, looked around, saw nothing and left.

Her family believes that if more had been done to follow up on the Sept. 18 call, Dudley would not have died while being loaded into a medevac helicopter after she was finally found Sept. 22.

An internal RCMP investigation has found that a 911 operator failed to provide critical information that could have led police to Dudley and slain boyfriend Guthrie Jolan McKay the night they were shot.

The probe also found that the lead RCMP officer that night “did not properly investigate a report of shots fired” by failing to talk to the neighbour who originally called 911.

“She would be alive if those officers had done their job,” Dudley’s mom, Rosemarie Surakka, said this week. “There were six shots fired. What would it take? What if there were six bodies?”

The Surakkas want a coroner’s inquest to be held so there can be a full airing of what went wrong the night the couple was targeted for death by unknown assailants.

“We want an inquest because we need some answers,” stepfather Mark Surakka said.

However, coroner Vince Stancato wrote the family earlier this month that a committee had decided it was too early to convene an inquest.

“The committee felt that it was premature pending the on-going criminal investigation and decided that until the criminal investigation is completed, this matter will be held in abeyance,” Stancato wrote.

The Surakkas say the inquest into the deaths and the police response the night of the shooting would be completely separate from the criminal investigation of the targeted hit.

They were so frustrated by Stancato’s response, they hired lawyer Cameron Ward to appeal the decision.

Ward wrote to the B.C. Coroners Service Aug. 21 saying Dudley’s death is “exactly the kind of case that should be the subject of an inquest” and that the family and the public should know what happened on Sept. 18, 2008.

“Negligence or incompetence on the part of the three RCMP members who investigated the 911 caller’s reports of gunshots may have contributed to Lisa Dudley’s death and allowed the perpetrators of the homicide to escape,” Ward wrote. “The RCMP may wish to keep the tragic circumstances from public scrutiny.”

Ward also said the neighbour who found Dudley and McKay the afternoon of Sept. 22 said the couple “and evidence of the shooting were clearly visible from outside the residence.”

“Lisa Dudley must have been immobilized and suffering from gunshot wounds for a period of some 90 hours before she was discovered,” Ward said. “Had any of the three RCMP members who investigated the report of gunshots found her, she may well have survived.”

Ward said Tuesday he had received no response so far.

Together about a year

Lisa Cheryl Dudley was 37 and living with her boyfriend for about a year when the pair were shot in the house they shared with three cats and two dogs on Mission’s Greenwood Drive. She was popular with neighbours in the close-knit community of comfortable homes on two- and three-acre lots.

The police probe into the double slaying is still “active and ongoing,” Cpl. Dale Carr, of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said Tuesday.

“It is very clear to us from what we have learned in that investigation ... that it was targeted. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise,” Carr said. “What we are hoping for is support from people that have information. As that continues to come in, it will lead us towards a resolution. There are people out there who have information who are choosing not to share it with us.”

A neighbour found Dudley and McKay about 4:45 p.m. Sept. 22 after noticing the back sliding glass door was shattered. He called 911 again.

McKay, 33, was lying on the floor. Dudley was slumped in a chair, still able to communicate, according to an autopsy report viewed by The Vancouver Sun.

“Ms. Dudley was discovered conscious and responsive seated in a chair at a private residence subsequent to an apparent firearm assault,” the autopsy report by Dr. Craig Litwin said.

“The firearm assault reportedly was thought to have occurred several days prior to her death. Reportedly she was able to communicate at the time she was initially found, but became unresponsive during transfer to hospital.”

It said Dudley had no drugs or alcohol in her system and was found by paramedics with a “very low heart rate, a low blood pressure and a low breathing rate.”

“Significant amounts of dried blood present at the scene strongly affixed Ms. Dudley to the chair she was seated in at the time she was discovered,” Litwin wrote.

Large chunks of the eight-page report have been blacked out, to the family’s puzzlement and frustration.

Rosemarie Surakka believes her daughter was paralysed from the gunshot wounds to her face and neck.

“I know my daughter would have fought to the very end of her life to get out of that situation, but obviously she couldn’t,” Rosemarie said. “There was my little girl up there in that house, thinking six shots were fired and that somebody would have heard and would come. She waited and waited and waited and nobody came.”

The Surakkas learned by accident that the original 911 call was made four days before Dudley was found. Mark said he overheard an officer at the Mission detachment mentioning that an “administrative review” would be done.

At first, it didn’t sink in, Rosemarie said.

“The more it sunk in, the more horrific it was. All I knew was that she was dead. The more I thought about it, the worse it got and it is just unbelievably depressing.”

Caller waited for police

Mark began writing letters and making calls. He talked to neighbours about what happened that night and learned that the caller had waited for police, who never spoke to him. Mark talked to investigators and to the coroner. He filed freedom-of-information requests. He contacted the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP in Ottawa to launch a formal investigation into what went wrong.

He said he wanted the actions of 911 operator Katrina Gardiner investigated, as well as the inadequate response of Mission RCMP officers Mike White and Samantha Audley and auxiliary constable Danielle Girard.

RCMP Insp. Hilton Smee wrote to the Surakkas last April, saying the internal investigation carried out because of the complaint to Ottawa supported some of the family’s assertions.

“I support the allegation that Katrina Gardiner failed to forward critical information to the members that attended,” Smee wrote.

He included a transcript of the original 911 call from a worried neighbour who said he heard shots: “six in a row, but not regular, like, ah, you know, like somebody squeezing off a gun like I’ve heard at the rifle range except you known when like a clip or something — boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, six times, hey.”

The neighbour told Gardiner that after the first shot “we thought we heard something yelling out.”

And the caller told the operator that another neighbour “said she heard some sort of crashing around.”

While the neighbour did not give an exact address for the shooting, he said the shots came from “inside of the loop” and at the “end of Shaw and it’s the left side at the very end before it turns into Greenwood.”

Dudley and McKay lived on the corner lot at Shaw and Greenwood.

Smee also concluded that the dispatcher did not provide details of where exactly the shots were heard.

“For instance, the caller provides further details indicating that the shots came from inside the loop or cul-de-sac. This was not placed on the dispatch ticket,” Smee said. “The other potential oversight was the failure to indicate that the complainant thought he heard something ‘yelling out.’”

Smee said Gardiner was being monitored as a result of the internal investigation.

“Ms. Gardiner has been provided with operational guidance by her supervisor to ensure that important details gathered in the process of call-taking are accurately reflected on the dispatch ticket of a file,” Smee said.

In his letter to the Surakkas, he also expressed the RCMP’s condolences.

“Any loss of life is a tragedy and regrettable. I express my deepest sympathies and condolences for the loss of your daughter and the death of Mr. McKay,” he said. “I express them both personally and on behalf of the members involved in this file.”

Smee also said White, who has since been promoted to corporal from constable, should have followed up with the 911 caller.

“In this case, it would have been advisable to do so. Additional information would likely have been obtained that could have assisted in the investigation,” Smee said. “On behalf of the RCMP, I would like to apologize that this step was not taken. Cpl. White has been provided with operational guidance to give close consideration to contacting complainants on calls for service where additional information can be of investigative assistance.”

Investigation from car

Smee said that an officer responding to shots-fired calls should search the area, conduct neighbourhood inquiries, contact the complainants and re-attend the scene in daylight hours.

He noted that White looked around from his car, but did not knock on doors or come back the next day.

White told the investigators he took about 13 minutes to get to the area of the shooting after the 911 call came in at 10:42 p.m. The global positioning system on his car indicated he arrived at 11:02 p.m. and left at 11:14 because of “a priority weapons call at Stave Lake.”

“Cpl. White indicates that he looked for any vehicles, any signs of a disturbance in the area and shell casings on the road,” Smee wrote.

White said he didn’t follow up with door-knocking because it was late and there had been only one 911 call and because “several of the rural properties had gates.”

Smee said White’s position is “not unreasonable” though Dudley’s parents find it completely unacceptable.

Rosemarie said the gate was decorative and could have been driven or walked around.

“All Mike White had to do was walk around that gate and do a circle of the house and he would have seen them and I know Lisa would be alive today,” she said.

Mark said he walked from the spot where White’s car was to his daughter’s front door. “It was 81 steps.”

Photographs of the house after the shooting show a bullet hole through one window and the back door completely blown out.

The Surakkas noted that White had signed off on his report about the call and was leaving the area within minutes of arriving. Because he was the acting supervisor, he later signed off on his own report, closing the original file.

White told investigators that he was the acting corporal on duty and therefore approved his own file.

“Cpl. White stated that he also investigates files, and, being responsible for the file queues, it is not uncommon to approve his own files,” Smee wrote. “The approving of his own report was then, consistent with his job function as he described.”

Smee did not support allegations that two others involved that night did anything wrong. He said that Audley was working under White and that Girard was a volunteer not governed by the RCMP regulations.

The Surakkas have appealed Smee’s findings. But they are frustrated that there is no outside civilian agency to hear their concerns. They think the issues surrounding their daughter’s death need a public airing.

“Remember, Lisa didn’t die from the gunshot wounds. She was just injured,” Mark said.

Sgt. Tim Shields, of RCMP E Division, said Tuesday he was not aware of any policy changes that resulted from the Surakkas’ complaint.

“It has not resulted in any direct policy change, other than the fact of a very difficult lesson that has been learned,” Shields said. “Having said that shots-fired calls in the Lower Mainland are a nightly occurrence and in many, many cases they are unfounded, it is just tragic that in this case, two lives were lost.”

Tears welled in Rosemarie Surakka’s eyes this week as she tried to convey to a Sun reporter what her daughter was likely thinking in the final days of her life.

Her tribute on a plaque on a cemetery bench where her daughter is buried says it all.

“Perhaps in those last four horrible days, memories of love kept you, as now the memories of your love keep me.”

Laughing Mountie Mike White’s disgraceful conduct
gets him a one-day suspension and a promotion soon after
The so-called investigation into RCMP Corporal Mike White’s conduct
was as egregious as the Mountie’s behaviour
With zero accountability, even for a disgraced cop
like RCMP Const. Mike White, the victim’s family launches a lawsuit
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