Former RCMP superintendent reflects on dangerous career

Click to play video: 'Retired Mountie’s dramatic story'
Retired Mountie’s dramatic story
On this day, 45 years ago, a rookie cop nearly lost his life in the line of duty. The retired superintendent was the face of the RCMP in BC in the late '90s. It was only many years later he realized the significance of April 14. Angela Jung has his story, and first a warning, it touches on some sensitive subject matter – Apr 14, 2024

Forty-five years after nearly having his throat slit, a retired RCMP superintendent is sharing his story.

On the anniversary of the attack Sunday, former North Vancouver RCMP officer Russ Grabb woke up and was thinking about how important this incident had become for him.

“I realized that today is April 14 and exactly 45 years ago today on April 14, 1979, that was a day a 27-year-old heroin addict, who was suffering from some very serious mental health challenges, tried to slit my throat,” Grabb said. “I was thinking about how lucky I was to be alive and to be happy.”

In one of his many near-death experiences, Grabb said he was responding to a call about a woman not paying the $10 for her cab ride after being dropped off at her apartment on East Second Street in North Vancouver.

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He said he initially attempted to de-escalate the situation, with little success. She then punched his notebook out of his hand. He reached down to grab it, and suddenly felt a knife by his throat.

Luckily for him, he was only nicked by the blade.

“I had come that close to being murdered by her in that moment,” Grabb said. “It just barely missed my jugular vein.”

Grabb said she continued to try and kill him using the knife and when he pulled out the gun, he said she appeared not to be scared.

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Then when he told her to drop the knife or he would shoot. He said she responded that she would be happy to die if she killed him.

He was able to call for backup and eventually was able to pin her against the wall, which allowed police to handcuff her.

Exactly two weeks later, the same woman was in a stolen car along with seven other people when two of them got into a shootout with Burnaby RCMP officers, he said.

Two officers were shot, including one that was taken hostage during the fight, and while Grabb was not present for the shooting, he was reminded of the woman.

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“Over the years, many fellow RCMP officers had said to me, ‘Why didn’t you just shoot her … you had every grounds under the law to pull the trigger under the law and you didn’t,’” Grabb said.

He said he did not shoot her because he felt they had something in common.

“There was just something about her that struck me on an instinctive level, that led me to say I’m not going to pull the trigger,” Grabb said. “I am going to plead with her, I am going to de-escalate this, we are going to get through this peacefully, and the two of us are going to survive.”

Grabb later found out she had been sexually abused as a child by a father figure. He said this was the connection he must have felt with her.

Before he joined the RCMP, he said, Grabb had been a victim of similar crimes, having suffered years of abuse by his mother.

“As a child starting at age three, going right up until I was 14 years old, I was grotesquely beaten, sexually defiled and gaslit into a perpetual state of delirium by my very own mother,” Grabb said.

He later wrote a book on the events titled Traces of a Boy: Reflections of the Unfathomable.

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In the book, he details all the incidents of childhood abuse and later the mistakes he made while in the RCMP, which he said were likely a result of his previous trauma.

“It ended up condemning me to live an adult life that was replete with mental health and addiction, heartache and chaos, and frankly, as confessed in my book, no end of human stupidity,” Grabb said.

He said his mother had also attempted to drown him in their home before he was even a teenager.

His near-death scares and health troubles did not stop after his retirement from the RCMP.

“Since 2017 I’ve had over 38 hospitalizations, for everything from stroke to leukemia to cardiomyopathy to sepsis to kidney failure,” Grabb said.

He was able to celebrate his birthday in Whistler last week and is happy how healthy and fit he feels now. He said it is amazing he was able to live this long despite all the tribulations in his life.

“Wow, this is quite a milestone, I have made it all this way, 67 years of crazy living,” Grabb said.

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