The two police officers who entered a Mount Moriah home without permission early Sunday morning acted within their authority, said an RCMP spokesperson in a Friday afternoon news conference.
While speaking with reporters on Friday, Cpl. Jolene Garland said the officers’ “heads and hearts were in the right place.”
“Police had information that a 17-year-old girl was at risk and possibly in danger. Had our police officers walked away and she had been located inside that home — suffering harm due to our intention or inaction — I think we’d be having a very different conversation right now,” said Garland.
Cortney Pike, the owner of the western Newfoundland home, says she woke around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning to find two RCMP officers in her home. They had entered the house without permission and gone into her 11-year-old daughter’s bedroom, shining a light in her face and questioning her about a missing 17-year-old girl.
The missing girl was not inside the home, and Pike has repeatedly said she doesn’t know her. She says no one lives inside her home except for herself, her partner and three children.
“That girl has never been in my house. We don’t know who she is. Our children are 13 and 11 and nine. They don’t even know who she is,” Pike said in a phone interview after the news conference on Friday. “I’ve never seen that girl before in my entire life.”
Garland said senior RCMP management conducted a “detailed review” of the investigation into the missing 17-year-old, and found that the officers did nothing wrong by entering the home without permission. However, she said the RCMP did not interview or speak with the family who resides in the home as part of that review.
RCMP believed missing girl was inside the home: Garland
Garland said the RCMP believed the 17-year-old girl was inside the home based on information provided by her caregiver.
“The complainant said that the youth was picked up in front of that residence earlier on Saturday and was known to frequent that specific home,” Garland said.
Garland said the two officers went to the home at 4:38 a.m. based on an address provided by the complainant, as well as a description of the home and the vehicle parked in the driveway.
“Based on the totality of the information that was provided, officers attended the residence, knocked on the doors and windows, yelled out, identifying themselves as police and calling out the missing youth’s name,” she said.
Pike has repeatedly pushed back against the assertion, and did so again on Friday.
“My response to that is it’s a lie,” Pike said.
“I’m a mom. I hear everything. The moment my child was born, I’ve never slept through the night again. I hear every little noise. There’s no possible way in the world that they knocked on my door.”
Garland said the officers spent about 40 minutes attempting to alert residents of the home to their presence before opening an unlocked door, where they banged on an adjacent oil furnace for 15 minutes.
Garland said the officers pinged the missing girl’s cell phone, and though the ping indicated the girl was in the area, it didn’t specifically point to the house. However, after consulting with a senior officer, police decided to enter anyway, said Garland.
“The officer’s concerns for the safety of the youth were increasing at this time, with no response from inside the home,” she said.
The officers entered the bedroom belonging to Pike’s 11-year-old daughter first, questioning her without permission before her parents woke up.
“Officers asked the child her name and asked if she knew or saw the missing teen. Officers then asked if anyone else was in the home and were directed to adults who were said to be upstairs in the residence,” Garland said.
Pike said she first became aware that there were strangers in her home when she heard voices in the hallway outside her bedroom. Pike said she spoke to the officers, but they didn’t make any attempt to search the rest of the house.
“Once police determined the home and its residents were not connected with the missing youth, they apologized for the inconvenience and exited the home at approximately 6 a.m.,” Garland said.
‘I’m not going to let this go’: Pike
Police officers are permitted to enter a home without permission in certain “exigent circumstances” — such as if they have a reasonable belief that a person is in immediate or grave danger.
According to Garland, the officers entered the home because they did have serious concerns that the missing 17-year-old was in danger — though Garland wasn’t able to say what that danger was.
“I don’t have the specific level of harm other than to what was communicated to the RCMP by the complainant, was that the youth expressed interests of concern of wanting to come home,” she said. “There was concerns for her safety at that point in time.”
Pike said she was “livid” after watching the RCMP news conference on Friday, and doesn’t understand why a complainant would give police a description of her home.
“I’m not going to let this go. I absolutely feel as if we were targeted for some reason. I don’t understand what’s going on,” she said.
Garland said the RCMP has not received a formal complaint about the incident, though Pike insisted she’s filed one online.
“Everybody can agree that that could be quite an alarming situation for the occupants of that home. We sincerely apologize for, you know, the disruption, any of the impact that this has caused to them,” Garland said.
Onus on police to explain incident: PC opposition
Earlier on Friday, Progressive Conservative justice critic Helen Conway Ottenheimer said the incident was disturbing.
“The police have the onus on them. If they really did have the authority to enter into the home as they did do so, we need to understand what circumstances justified that,” she said.
Conway Ottenheimer noted that both police and residents have been killed or injured during other incidents where officers entered a home without permission. She called on Justice Minister John Hogan to ensure police fully explain what happened.
In a statement, a Justice Department spokesperson noted that the RCMP was holding a news conference.
“It is inappropriate for the Minister of Justice and Public Safety to comment on a matter such as this one,” said the spokesperson in a statement.