The man flashing the metre-long sword was obvious enough on the SkyTrain system that people called transit police to report his presence.
But the man, later central to a 30-minute standoff with Vancouver police in the downtown core, travelled 10 stations on Monday between Metrotown mall and downtown Burrard Station.
"They received reports that he had a sword, and he was on SkyTrain sheathing it and unsheathing it, displaying it, showing it to people, acting irrationally," said Constable Lindsey Houghton of the Vancouver Police Department.
He said the transit police would have to explain why they did not intercept the sword-wielding man en route into the city - a ride of at least 15 to 20 minutes that would have included a stop at bustling Commercial-Broadway Station.
"I can only speak for the Vancouver police, but I can tell you that as soon as we became aware of the situation, and were advised by our transit police colleagues, we were there very, very quickly," Constable Houghton said.
But Staff Sergeant Ken Shinkel of the Transit Police said his team received a first call to report that the man was at Metrotown, and were responding when they received a second call to say the man was at Stadium-Chinatown Station, across the street from Rogers Arena and two stations from the end of his trip. "We got some bad information," he said.
Constable Houghton said transit police watched as the man - he was not identified - waved the sword around, and exited onto Burrard, making his way to the shadow of Christ Church Cathedral across the street from the venerable Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.
As hundreds of bystanders looked on, the man screamed at police - both uniformed and plainclothes - who stood nearby negotiating with him. Other officers urged bystanders away, warning that police were armed to deal with the situation.
At least two dozen officers were on the scene.
Eventually, officers fired at least three rubber projectiles from an Arwen gun at the man, and also tried tasering him. However, police suggest he was able to shrug off both measures because of his heavy coat.
When he tried to flee across Burrard Street, emptied of traffic due to the standoff, the man was tackled and cuffed by police as hundreds of bystanders looked on. The man was not injured.
He is now in custody, and likely to face weapons-related charges, as well as a psychological assessment.
Constable Houghton said it's too soon for police to comment on the man's motives. Staff Sgt. Schinkel said his officers had a chance to chat briefly with the man. "I believe there's some mental-health issues here," he said, declining further comment.
Constable Houghton said police had to scramble to make sure bystanders, officers and even the man with the sword were safe. "These are very dynamic situations that have the potential to turn sour very quickly if we don't act quickly and decisively," he said.
Bystander Florian Schafer, visiting from Berlin to attend a conference, watched the entire incident unfold and said it was a bizarre twist during his third trip to Vancouver.
"It was a big surprise, but bad things happen all over the world," said Mr. Schafer.