In the wake of the coroner’s inquest into the shooting death of Mission’s Lisa Dudley 10 years ago, her mother and stepfather, Rosemarie and Mark Surakka, say they finally at least have some answers.
They also heard a heart-wrenching message.
The Surakkas had been asking for the inquest for years, and after a long wait, sat through the four-day process, listening intently to all the testimony.
“Peter Smith, the paramedic, he relayed to Rosemarie Lisa’s last words to her mother: ‘I love you, Mom.’ Now that is just, I was furious, because that shouldn’t have been held back,” Mark Surakka said.
He said withholding Lisa’s final message to her mother for the past decade was “cruel” but he doesn’t blame the paramedic, explaining that he understands that the people involved were “told not to say anything” about the incident.
“Think about that. How could that possibly affect any sort of criminal investigation?” he asked.
Surakka said discovering what Dudley’s final words were is the “most important point, the most poignant point” to come out of the inquest.
Dudley, 37, and Guthrie McKay, 33 were shot Sept. 18, 2008 in a home on Greenwood Drive in rural Mission. A neighbour found them four days later.
McKay was pronounced dead at the scene after suffering from three gunshots, while Dudley, who had been shot once in the head and once in the neck, was still alive. She was airlifted to hospital but died en route.
A man had reported hearing six gunshots and a crashing noise the night of the shooting. RCMP Const. Mike White reported to the Greenwood home, but left the scene after being there for about 10 minutes.
According to the inquest, he never left his vehicle and did not follow up the next day.
He was reprimanded and docked one day’s pay in 2011 for failing to properly investigate a shots-fired call.
Over the past 10 years, four men – Thomas Holden, Jack Woodruff, Justin MacKinnon and Bruce Main – have all been sentenced to prison for playing a role in the deaths.
The goal of a coroner’s inquest is not to lay blame, but to determine the events that led to a person’s death and make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.
At the conclusion of last week’s inquest, Dudley’s death was officially ruled a homicide and nine recommendations were released.
One of the recommendations calls for the possible implementation of a first responder investigation policy for complaints of potential grievous bodily harm.
Surakka said what stands out is that this is for all police agencies in the province, not just the RCMP.
“The RCMP have already implemented national policy because of Lisa’s case … They don’t sign off on their own reports, and they answer and talk to the complainant and thoroughly contact and talk to everyone.”
But he wants to know if regional police forces will also adapt their policies.
Another recommendation was addressed to BC Emergency Health Services and suggested exploring options for a designated air ambulance that is better equipped to allow patient care during transport.
Surakka believes that to be an important change, and does not see it as a criticism in any way, saying it’s “really awkward” inside the air ambulance.
He said at the inquest he heard that paramedics could not have been compressing Dudley while taking off, even though she had already gone through several sessions of cardiac arrest.
“They exhausted themselves and did everything they could. We have nothing but praise and respect for them and their efforts,” Surakka said.
The BC RCMP have already said that they will review the recommendations made at the inquest.
While the inquest is over, the Surakkas say they are now moving to the next aspect of the case.
“This is a prelude to the next stage – a charter challenge. We are hoping to get to trial in January 2019,” Surakka said.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees life, liberty, and security of person, and Surakka said he feels it’s apparent that Dudley was deprived of those rights.
The following is the complete list of recommendations made after the coroner’s inquest into the death of Lisa Dudley.
To RCMP Dispatch Services:
1. Review procedures and training, to ensure all dispatch employees properly and thoroughly document all details reported by a complainant.
2. Review with dispatch employees that all calls are recorded, are sensitive in nature, and could be made public through requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act or other processes.
To The District of Mission:
3. Review bylaws regarding the visibility of residential addresses from the street.
To The Royal Canadian Mounted Police:
4. If not already in place, explore the implementation of a policy specific to following up with a complainant regarding matters of potential grievous bodily harm (e.g. shooting, stabbing, etc.). If a policy such as this is already in place, explore increased training relating to awareness of this policy.
5. Explore implementation of mandatory routine review and training on the First Response Investigations Policy within all levels of the RCMP.
6. Explore increased exterior lighting for all unmarked police cars operating in rural areas.
To BC Emergency Health Services:
7. Explore options for a designated air ambulance that is better equipped to allow patient care during transport.
To The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General:
8. Review implementation of a First Responder Investigation Policy (including mandatory follow-up with a complainant) for complaints of potential grievous bodily harm (e.g. shooting, stabbing, etc.) for all police agencies in the province of BC.
9. Explore implementation of mandatory training regarding response to complaints of potential grievous bodily harm (e.g. shooting, stabbing, etc.).