Law enforcement officials in Canada and the United States are piecing together the story of what happened when a routine check at the Peace Arch border crossing erupted in gunfire, leaving a rookie customs agent seriously injured and the shooter dead of a self-inflicted wound.
Canadian border guard Lori Bowcock had been on the job for less than four months when she was shot in the neck on Tuesday.
She was in stable condition in hospital on Wednesday, surrounded by family members who flew to B.C. from Ontario.
Roslyn MacVicar, Pacific regional director-general of the Canada Border Services Agency, said in a statement Ms. Bowcock is doing well despite her serious injury.
“She is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery. Her mother and brothers are by her side,” she said.
She said Ms. Bowcock graduated from the CBSA college in July and was sent to the Pacific region that month.
“As a recent graduate, she has not yet completed the arming program training,” she said in reference to a course that qualifies officers to carry a Beretta 9 mm sidearm on the job.
According to the CBSA website: “The course trains officers on the safe use, handling, storage and transportation of the duty firearm as well as dealing with dangerous situations.” The goal of the program is to train all border officers in Canada to carry firearms by 2016, but only about half have taken it so far.
Ms. Bowcock previously worked as a communications operator and auxiliary officer with Ontario Provincial Police in Middlesex County.
Police say she was in her booth at the Peace Arch border crossing questioning a man who was driving a white van with Washington State licence plates when the man shot her, then himself.
RCMP have confirmed that the suspect was Andrew Michael Crews, 32, a U.S. resident.
“This investigation remains in the early stages and investigators are attempting to determine a motive. The current evidence clearly indicates that prior to taking his own life, Mr. Crews deliberately fired at the victim,” Superintendent Kevin Hackett, the RCMP officer in charge of the investigation, said in a statement. “There is no evidence, however, to suggest the victim was specifically targeted.”
KOMO News, in Seattle, Wash., reported that Mr. Crews had worked at the Lucky Boys tattoo parlour.
“He’s nice, he’s just really down to earth,” tattoo client Courtnee Riggs told KOMO. “He seemed normal and happy and liked punk rock. It’s just crazy.”
The RCMP’s integrated homicide investigations team kept the busy border crossing south of Vancouver closed until late on Wednesday afternoon as they processed the crime scene.
On the U.S. side of the border, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative arm of the department of Homeland Security, is heading a probe.
Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s office said investigators from his office staked out a home in Bremerton on Tuesday night at the request of ICE.
Deputy Wilson said police were told they were going to the address of the suspected shooter at the Canadian border, but he declined to give a name.
He said police approached with caution, “because we knew nothing about this residence ...we didn’t know what we were walking into. We don’t know if we’ve got associates of the individual, we got family members, [or if] the house is booby-trapped.”
Deputy Wilson said police confirmed the man had once lived at the house.
“We were able to talk to the occupants of the house and confirm, through other means as well, that the individual [named] by ICE was not at the house and had not been at the house for quite some time. Totally moved out. And they believe he had relocated to the Seattle area,” he said.
Andrew Munoz, a spokesman for ICE, declined to say whether investigators were able to trace the suspect further or ascertain a motive for the shooting.
Mr. Munoz said Homeland Security is working closely with the RCMP, and is “following up on leads in the U.S.”