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Police officers gather around the van where a Canadian border officer was shot at the Peace Arch Canadian-U.S. border crossing in Surrey, B.C., Oct. 16, 2012. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

Police officers gather around the van where a Canadian border officer was shot at the Peace Arch Canadian-U.S. border crossing in Surrey, B.C., Oct. 16, 2012.

(Andy Clark/Reuters)

Border guard shot at Peace Arch crossing in B.C. Add to ...

A lone gunman shot and wounded a female border guard at British Columbia’s Peace Arch border crossing on Tuesday afternoon before turning the gun on himself.

The unnamed officer, who is believed to have been shot in the neck, was breathing when she was airlifted to Royal Columbian Hospital, Corporal Bert Paquet of the Surrey RCMP said on Tuesday.

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“The first report at the scene revealed that a male, a lone male, had shot an officer in her booth,” Cpl. Paquet said.

Soon after that, the man was pronounced dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he added. Police had not yet confirmed how many shots were fired.

“We’re still investigating, trying to ascertain that,” Cpl. Paquet said.

The incident, which unfolded at about two o’clock on a sunny afternoon at the Douglas border crossing between Surrey and Blaine, Wash. – more commonly known as the Peace Arch crossing – brought crossborder traffic to a standstill as police interviewed potential witnesses and photographed licence plates.

A white van stood with its rear doors open, and dozens of officers swarmed the area.

Police said the man drove to the crossing alone in a vehicle with Washington licence plates. They have yet to establish whether he owned it.

Glen Pederson, who lives near the Peace Arch border crossing, said two RCMP helicopters began circling overhead and one landed in a parking lot inside the border control area.

Police said the man drove to the crossing alone in a vehicle with Washington licence plates. They have yet to establish whether he owned it.

Glen Pederson, who lives near the Peace Arch border crossing, said two RCMP helicopters began circling overhead and one landed in a parking lot inside the border control area.

“There are cops all over the place,” he said. “The traffic is holding. Nobody is moving. … There are police or border agents everywhere.”

Police were interviewing CBSA staff and members of the public.

“Surrey RCMP has deployed the entire victim services that they have on staff right now to talk with the CBSA officers involved or witnessed the incident, or possibly members of the general public,” Cpl. Paquet told reporters at the scene.

“We want to make sure everyone receives treatment or has someone to talk to for what is a very traumatic incident.”

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement that he is deeply concerned by the shooting, calling it a “a sobering reminder of the dangerous conditions faced daily by the men and women of our law enforcement agencies as they work to protect the safety and security of Canadians.”

The RCMP is leading the investigation, and U.S. authorities are at this point not directly involved.

“They’ve been advised of what took place here, obviously,” Cpl. Paquet said. “This is a very serious incident that occurred right on the borderline, so we are sharing information with them as our investigation unfolds.”

The Customs and Immigration Union recently issued a statement warning that federal government cutbacks could jeopardize the safety of border officials.

“When it comes to gun control, illegal drugs and national security, the border is Canada’s first line of defence,” CIU president Jean-Pierre Fortin said in August. “How can the federal government possibly defend decisions to cut back on intelligence work at the borders given the recent shooting sprees in Toronto and Montreal?”

A spokesman for the union that represents CBSA officers said late Tuesday that he had been told the officer was in “stable” condition.

He could not recall another incident of a Canadian border officer being shot while on duty.

“I do know that officers have encountered armed people even at the booth, but never something that has gone this far,” said Dan Sullivan, branch president of the B.C. Southern branch of the Customs and Immigration Union.

With a report from Rod Mickleburgh

Did you witness the incident at the Peace Arch? Please call reporter Wendy Stueck at 604-631-6618 or e-mail wstueck@globeandmail.com

Follow us on Twitter: @wendy_stueck, @markhumeglobe

 

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