The daughter of a man who is believed to have died after a long police standoff on a Langley, B.C., farm is questioning whether RCMP did enough to defuse the situation.
Nicky McIntosh says her father, Don Bennett, was the man inside a barn that burned down on a blueberry farm Friday.
Mounties said the hours-long standoff began when they were called for a wellness check on an “individual who was distraught and made concerning comments” who lived at the 23000-block of 0 Avenue, a farm on the Canada-U.S. border.
In a statement, RCMP said after officers arrived at around 4 p.m. PT Friday they reported hearing gunshots, prompting them to call the force’s integrated emergency response team.
At around 10:40 p.m., police say a fire erupted that consumed the barn, leaving the person inside likely dead. The fire also torched two police vehicles.
The standoff and fire are now subject to an investigation by B.C.’s police oversight agency.
But McIntosh says RCMP didn’t respond appropriately to the wellness check.
McIntosh says an armed response to what she says was a mental health crisis was not justified, and she wished the RCMP had involved Bennett’s family early on.
“I don’t know if there was a mental health worker or a social worker or a support worker in attendance with the officers who came to do the initial wellness check,” she told CBC News.
“But the family wasn’t involved from the beginning. And by the time we did find out about it, I think it had already escalated to a point where I don’t know if there was any way to to go back.”
McIntosh said anyone close to Bennett, who she said was 66, knew he struggled with mental health issues, and that he was in a crisis on Friday.
She added it’s not the first time a police response to a wellness check has resulted in the death of a person in crisis.
“If they don’t change the way they deal with it, it won’t be the last time either,” she said.
Bennett’s identity was confirmed by Sandeep Brar, the owner of the blueberry farm. Brar earlier told CBC News that the man had rented space on the property for around a decade to park his RV.
‘He would make friends everywhere’
CBC News contacted RCMP for comment but a spokesperson said no further information would be given as the incident is now being investigated by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), B.C.’s police oversight agency.
A spokesperson for the IIO — which investigates all instances where police activity results in serious harm or death — also said it would not comment because the investigation is in its early stages.
McIntosh said she was only notified of the standoff shortly before RCMP said the barn burned down.
She said the building contained all of Bennett’s belongings, meaning she has nothing to remember her father by.
“The whole building is gone. I went there on Saturday,” she said. “His artwork, his jewelry, his vehicles … anything and everything that he had was in that building.”
McIntosh said her father was an easygoing and kind man, who was close to her two daughters. He also had a sister and three brothers, she said.
“Everyone he met — strangers on the ferry, on the trail, Campbell Valley Park where he rode his horses — he would make friends everywhere,” she said.