EDMONTON — Moments before he died in a barrage of bullets, Const. Daniel Woodall had been chatting with a man about whether his neighbour who was under investigation for hate crimes might have any guns.
Norman Raddatz was a 42-year-old refrigerator repairman — a divorced father with money problems, who didn’t cut the grass around his west Edmonton bungalow and put dog poop on the top of his fence to irritate those living next door.
Ryan Colton didn’t know much more about him, other than that he had a small dog.
“As far as guns, I said, ‘I don’t know.’ That’s all I could give him for info.”
Woodall and seven other city officers, half of them in plainclothes, then approached Raddatz’s home about 8 p.m. Monday. They knocked and announced themselves, and when no one answered, Woodall started using a battering ram on the front door, said Colton.
During the third blow, gunshots rang out, he said.
Woodall, a 35-year-old officer recruited from Great Britain, suffered a fatal, “catastrophic wound” despite wearing body armour, Chief Rod Knecht told reporters Tuesday.
He said another officer, the first at the door, was shot and wounded in the lower back as he turned around. Sgt. Jason Harley, 38, was wearing a bullet-proof vest and it saved his life.
Officers carried the wounded officer to the front corner of Colton’s yard, where he helped by pressing a cloth onto the bleeding wound before an ambulance arrived.
For about 10 minutes, no one could escape the gunfire.
The remaining officers took cover behind vehicles until the bullets stopped flying.
In all, officers counted 53 bullet holes in the house and a garage across the street. A Second World War veteran, who were dozing in front of the TV, and his wife, who was working on a puzzle, were remarkably not hit.
Soon after, a fire started in the house where the shots came from and it burned to the ground. Police later found a body in the basement they believe was Raddatz. An autopsy will be done to determine a cause of death.
Knecht said police didn’t fire any rounds during the shooting.
Investigators believe Raddatz used a large-bore rifle, a powerful gun that carries big bullets and is often used to hunt big game.
Knecht said police didn’t expect violence when they showed up, adding that sending eight officers is typical for a criminal call.
The officers had an outstanding arrest warrant for Raddatz for a bylaw offence, and were also going to serve him with documents ordering him to appear in court for criminal harassment dating back to February 2014.
“The online hatred and bullying of an Edmonton family had become extreme and the family members were increasingly worried about their personal safety,” he said. No other details were offered about the family.
Knecht added that Raddatz was known to police but did not have an extensive criminal record.
Colton said Raddatz was a terrible neighbour who didn’t take care of his house, “but I didn’t think he would go this far.”
Ollie Noble, the 83-year-old woman in the house hit by gunfire, was also surprised by the violence.
“I mean, what did he accomplish? He killed a young officer with a wife and two little kids.”
Court documents show Raddatz was charged last year with seven bylaw offences, including parking an unattached trailer, abandoning vehicles and causing a nuisance on land. He had $550 in outstanding fines.
Records also reveal he and his wife divorced in 2012. They have three sons, 21, 19 and 14.
Raddatz ran a company called North Summit Mechanical out of his house, but neighbours said he had stopped working and drank a lot. A bank had also foreclosed on the home and it was for sale for $400,000.
Sgt. Maurice Brodeur with the Edmonton Police Association said it’s impossible to imagine what Raddatz was thinking, but his life appeared to be crumbling around him. Then police showed up at his door.
Just by wearing a uniform, an officer can become the focus of anger, he said.
Knecht said Woodall’s children were sleeping when their dad died Monday night and their mother had to break the news to them Tuesday morning.
Chris Purdy and John Cotter, The Canadian Press