Police Stand Spurred Crime, Court Told RCMP Intervention Could Have Stopped Estranged Husband's Shooting Rampage, B.C. Woman Says

Date: 
Friday, November 21, 2003

Jane Armstrong, Globe and Mail, November 21, 2003 

VANCOUVER -- On an April evening in 1996, near a remote lake in British Columbia's Interior, Bonnie Mooney's estranged husband came looking for her with a sawed-off shotgun. In the space of a few minutes, Ms. Mooney's life changed for good. Now she wants the Mounties to pay. 

Ms. Mooney's common-law husband, Roland Kruska, who had been stalking her for weeks, broke into the house, killed her best friend, shot her 12-year-old daughter, set fire to the house, then killed himself. She says her life and family were destroyed that night. Her daughter, whose arm was nearly blown off, has never been the same. Ms. Mooney hasn't worked since; she injured her back when she dove out her bathroom window. 

Yesterday, in a B.C. courtroom, her lawyer, Henry Wood, argued that police negligence helped fuel Mr. Kruska's rampage. It's a case reminiscent of the Jane Doe affair in Toronto, when a woman who was raped sued police for failing to warn women that a rapist was stalking her neighbourhood. The Mooney case puts the RCMP on the hot seat, accusing the force of ignoring its own strict guidelines on how police should deal with domestic-violence complaints. 

Seven weeks before the 1996 shooting, Ms. Mooney begged police to protect her from Mr. Kruska. She showed up at a Prince George RCMP station, saying she feared for her life. "I was crying and shaking," Ms. Mooney, 46, said in an interview. "He was chasing me around town at high speed. I just about ran over some pedestrians." 

At the time, Mr. Kruska had a history of violence. He had a criminal record for manslaughter and had assaulted Ms. Mooney the previous November, sending her to hospital. At the Prince George police station in March, 1996, Ms. Mooney asked the constable on duty to keep her husband away from her. "Our position is: If police had been more vigilant, the violence might not have occurred," Mr. Wood said in an interview. 

Ms. Mooney's suit against the RCMP, the B.C. Attorney-General and the federal Department of Justice, was first heard in 2001, but Mr. Justice Ross Collver of the B.C. Supreme Court dismissed it. Judge Collver agreed with Ms. Mooney's claim that the RCMP constable failed to properly investigate the case. But he dismissed the negligence claim, concluding that police are guardians of public safety -- not guarantors. 

Ms. Mooney appealed and earlier this year, a judge granted the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter intervenor status. The group, which helped the RCMP draft its domestic-violence guidelines, said the police failed to follow these protocols when Ms. Mooney walked into the Prince George police station in March, 1996. That policy instructs officers to aggressively pursue domestic-violence complaints, including arresting a defendant even if there's no certainty the case can be successfully prosecuted. This so-called pro-arrest policy takes into account how domestic-violence cases can quickly escalate. 

Ms. Mooney said she hoped the officer would arrest Mr. Kruska the day he was chasing her through Prince George in his truck. A clerk at the police station testified at the first trial that Ms. Mooney was crying and shaking so badly her jewellery quivered. But the officer suggested she contact a lawyer and stay out of public places. An internal RCMP investigation later concluded the officer's response to Ms. Mooney was inappropriate and unprofessional. 

Ms. Mooney said police failed to protect her from Mr. Kruska. "They could have easily picked him up. How much more did they need to know?" On the night of the shooting, Mr. Kruska broke into Ms. Mooney's house in a remote, wooded area 80 kilometres west of Prince George. Ms. Mooney's best friend, Hazel White, was staying with the family for added protection. 

After Mr. Kruska burst through a patio door, Ms. White pushed Ms. Mooney into the bathroom, where she jumped out the window. Mr. Kruska shot Ms. Mooney's daughter, Michelle, in the shoulder, then shot Ms. White in the back, fatally wounding her. 

Michelle, even though wounded, helped her six-year-old sister out the bathroom window. 

Ms. Mooney said she and her daughters still suffer physical and psychological wounds from the attack. "My girls were robbed of their childhood and their trust in people," she said. Michelle Mooney was later awarded the Governor-General's Medal of Bravery, as was Ms. White,posthumously. 

By failing to investigate Ms. Mooney's complaint, Mr. Wood said, the RCMP was effectively saying: "The policy is empty; it's meaningless. If the police can ignore the policy that directs them to be aggressive with impunity . . . then it's a meaningless policy much of the time." The hearing continues today.