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In 2017, this stretch of Chilliwack Lake Road in B.C. became the scene of a dangerous drama between a motorist and a gunman alleged to have shot at several trucks in the area.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail /Rafal Gerszak

On a Saturday morning three years ago, Cameron Rose woke to a forecast of overcast skies and single-digit temperatures. Grey and gloomy, but nothing cruel enough to deter a born-and-raised Vancouverite from the hills.

He didn’t read the morning news of a gunman on the loose in northern B.C.

The 39-year-old bachelor had moved to Chilliwack – 100 kilometres east of Vancouver – in 2007, preferring its proximity to the craggy Cascade mountains that jut from the Fraser Valley like shark’s teeth. Full of alpine forests and glacial tarns, they became his sanctuary from city life. He wandered alone among the peaks every weekend, aiming for a daily vertical ascent of at least 300 metres.

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After a hike, he would often retreat to the cavernous garage behind his house to tinker with his 1960 Chevrolet truck. The Chevy was nearly road ready. It just needed a name, something he could emblazon on the side that might express a little something about its driver. So far, he was stumped.

He ignored the news as he pulled on his tan bucket hat and loaded his husky-golden Lab cross, Luna, into his grey Honda Civic, so he didn’t know that police were looking for a blue Dodge Caliber with a damaged front bumper and Ontario plates.

The driver, investigators believed, was Peter Anthony Kampos, a 38-year-old delusional schizophrenic with an expired firearms licence.

Two days earlier, he’d purchased a semi-automatic Aero Survival Rifle, complete with a magazine capable of holding twice the number of bullets normally permitted for rifles, court documents show.

Police had linked the Dodge to 22 separate shootings of transport trucks over the previous night, starting near Prince George, 700 kilometres north of Chilliwack, and moving south.

By daybreak, the shootings had petered out, the gunman eluding a province-wide dragnet.

The worst was still to come.

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This Aero Survival Rifle was allegedly used in the B.C. highway shootings in 2017.

Handout/Handout

The story of the B.C. highway shootings and their bloody conclusion has been largely untold and overlooked. There was little national media attention, no public outcry and no political promises to address the gaps in gun regulation the entire episode had exposed.

Three years later in Portapique, N.S., another elusive gunman with a semi-automatic rifle rampaged through another part of rural Canada, leaving police flat-footed in an hours-long shooting spree. In all, the Nova Scotia shooter killed 22 people, the deadliest-ever mass killing on Canadian soil.

The tragedy prompted Ottawa to impose a long-promised ban on hundreds of semi-automatic rifle models, twinned with a promise to buy the affected firearms at market prices. The measure immediately barred tens of thousands of gun owners from firing their rifles ever again.

Yet despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise that the ban would “close the market” on the types of rifles used in mass shootings, gaps remain.

Anything resembling the notorious AR-15 was banned, but other semi-automatic rifles similar in function remain legal – including the Aero Survival Rifle. For all the political and financial capital spent on the issue, the loopholes that allowed the troubled man in the blue Dodge to buy his over-capacity rifle using an expired licence and wreak havoc along provincial roadways remain firmly in place.

Mr. Rose’s planned destination that day was far from the gunfire. Lindeman Lake trail is a popular 3.5-kilometre hike located a 40-minute drive up Chilliwack Lake Road, which winds east from the little city through towering groves of Douglas fir and Western red cedar. He’d been enamoured of the area since he was a kid in the Air Cadets, soaring over the valley floor in a glider and staring at the dark mountains he knew had taken dozens of lives. The drive took him past memorials to two such tragedies: the Mount Slesse crash, which killed 62 people aboard Trans-Canada Airlines flight 810 in 1965, and the 1945 crash of a B-24 Liberator that killed 11 airmen. There were other ominous landmarks along the route, including the largely defunct General Vokes military rifle range and a remote provincial jail, Ford Mountain Correctional Centre.

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TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS

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john sopinski/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN;

OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS

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john sopinski/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS

As all this whizzed by, he kept his mind on the road and his Honda’s labouring engine.

He arrived at the trailhead around noon and encountered several hikers along the path. A light snowfall was dusting the treetops. Lindeman Lake shone in icy blues and greens. Of the countless trips he’d made to Lindeman, he couldn’t recall a prettier one.

About 45 minutes into the hike, Luna was neck-deep in snow, so they turned back. But the temperature was rising, and Mr. Rose wasn’t quite ready to abandon his mountain sanctuary for the day. As they returned to the car around 3 p.m., he decided to head down the road a few minutes to Ford Mountain Trail for another, shorter hike to round out the afternoon.

That’s when he noticed a blue Dodge Caliber inching along Chilliwack Lake Road. Mr. Rose, a devout car guy with a meticulous eye for mechanical detail, made note of three things right away: the car was driving at a walking pace, a piece of the front bumper was missing, and it had Ontario plates. Long way from home, Mr. Rose thought to himself.

He had no idea that every police officer in the province was looking for that very car.


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Police were searching in 2017 for this blue Dodge Caliber in connection with the shootings in B.C.

Handout


About nineteen hours earlier and 1,000 kilometres north, trucker Todd Feduck was rumbling west along the Yellowhead Highway when there was a muzzle flash from the oncoming lane, followed by an audible thwack against his hood.

At the time, however, he was too preoccupied to notice.

“I had the classic rock going over my Bluetooth headset,” he said. “I’m not sure what I had on that night. Let’s say Helter Skelter. It seems appropriate when you look at what happened that night and the next day.”

He was due to pick up a load of wood chips from L&M Lumber in Vanderhoof and haul it back to a Prince George pulp mill for Lomak Bulk Carriers, a hauling company whose rigs are ubiquitous on northern B.C. highways.

It had been a routine run, until sometime around 9 p.m., when a couple drivers crackled over the CB radio complaining of overheating engines. One of the drivers made a quick inspection of his truck and found what he thought was a bullet hole in his radiator.

It sounded preposterous. The Yellowhead cuts through prime moose and deer-hunting territory. But it was months until hunting season.

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The RCMP dispatched a couple officers to inspect the disabled truck and, in short order, pulled a nine millimetre bullet fragment from the truck’s air breather, just below the driver-side window. It didn’t tell them much. But it was enough to conclude that, somewhere out there on the Yellowhead, they had an active shooter on their hands.

When Mr. Feduck’s CB blared with news of the bullet in the breather that night, other drivers began inspecting their own trucks. Mr. Feduck followed suit. Right there on the hood, he found two holes. One entry hole, one exit hole, both the diameter of a pencil. A few inches up and the hole could’ve been in his head. He toggled through footage from his dash-mounted camera. That’s when he saw the muzzle flash and heard the thwack.

“The conversation on the radio at that point was that someone was going around shooting up Lomak trucks,” said Mr. Feduck, who refused to go back on the road that night. “All in all, we found four Lomak trucks that were shot. The first truck he went wide right, mine he went wide left and the next couple trucks he hit square in the rad. We didn’t really know what was going on.”

Neither did the police. As they puzzled over the Lomak trucks, reports of shootings farther down the highway flooded in. Truckers came under fire in Prince George, Quesnel and 100 Mile House, indicating the shooter had veered south on Highway 97 toward Vancouver.

From 8:30 p.m. that night until 4:30 a.m. the next morning, at least 22 trucks and one car were hit as police scrambled to understand the situation.

“What happened was horrible, but it could’ve been way worse,” said Mr. Feduck. “There were more than a dozen people who could have possibly died that night.”

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The entrance for Ford Mountain Forest Service Road, leading to the Ford Mountain Trail. Mr. Rose had planned to take a hike here.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail /The Globe and Mail


By 3 p.m. the next day, however, the situation had gone quiet. As police fanned out across the province, Mr. Rose watched the blue Dodge turn around and meander back down Chilliwack Lake Road at the same slow pace. The car had a lived-in appearance. Court exhibits would later show that the interior was a mess of Tim Hortons cups, sunflower seeds, camo hunting gear, Mountain Dew cans, water bottles and one cardboard rifle box.

Mr. Rose watched it pass, loaded Luna into the backseat and headed off in the same direction, toward Ford Mountain. Within three minutes, he came upon the blue hatchback again. It was driving at about half the 80 km/h speed limit, as if the driver were looking for a spot to pull over. Mr. Rose swung out to pass, but as he did so, the hatchback began to speed up. Mr. Rose pushed the Civic faster. As he pulled even with the other car, it began crowding into his lane. He pressed the gas pedal down further and squeaked by the hatchback.

Seconds after he pulled back into the right lane, the hatchback roared up in his rear-view mirror and passed him, doing, by Mr. Rose’s estimation, 100 kilometres an hour.

By the time he reached the Ford Mountain trailhead, he was feeling tired. He drove the Honda up a short dirt road and then backed his rear bumper up to a well-used firepit shadowed by ancient Western red cedars. He reclined his seat, gave Luna a few pets and started to close his eyes for a quick nap.

That’s when he noticed the blue car again. It was crunching up the dirt road toward him. Mr. Rose felt his gut turn. Something was not right. This was not a popular trail. He decided to remain reclined and pretend to be sleeping.

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The hatchback’s driver’s side window was open. As it nudged closer, Mr. Rose could see a man in sunglasses staring at him from behind the wheel.



Police allege the shooter was Peter Anthony Kampos, who was originally from Brampton, Ont.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office

Police allege the man driving the Dodge was Peter Anthony Kampos, and he was indeed far from home.

Though the criminal accusations against him have yet to be tested in a long-delayed trial, extensive court filings sketch out a life derailed by mental illness.

Three years earlier, he’d run a successful home renovation business in Brampton, Ont., about 3,000 kilometres away. But at some point in 2014, the University of Waterloo sciences grad sold his house, left his business and embarked on world travels that took him through South America and Asia. During a swing through Singapore, he’d forced his way into the driver’s cabin of a commuter train. Authorities there deported him back to Canada.

Back home, it became clear to his father, Vaclav, that the unusual behaviour was the outward manifestation of mental illness. In the two years after returning to Canada, he was hospitalized on at least four occasions for episodes of intense paranoia. The elder Mr. Kampos would later tell psychiatrists his son had occasionally armed himself for protection from ISIS and aliens. Mr. Kampos rejected all forms of treatment, his father wrote in a letter obtained by The Globe, because he thought medication detracted from a greater purpose. “My son Peter recognizes that he is different but truly and strongly believes in his duty as the Earth protector,” the letter states. “Even if everybody is against him, he has to continue his mission and must be able to recognize the aliens.”

The Aero Survival Rifle seized during Mr. Kampos's arrest, as shown in court documents.

Handout/Handout

A mental fitness assessment states Mr. Kampos was unemployed, living in his car and wandering the continent in the months before March of 2017. At some point, those peregrinations took him to Terrace B.C., where, on March 23, receipts show that he bought an olive semi-automatic Aero Survival Rifle from the local Canadian Tire for $969.95.

A unique aspect of this particular model was its nine-millimetre calibre, a bullet size normally associated with pistols.

That key specification places the rifle in a little-known grey area of Canadian firearms law. Normally, rifle magazines in Canada are limited to five bullets, a law introduced under the Progressive Conservatives in the early 1990s. The restriction was considered a bulwark against a future shooting on the scale of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique massacre, where the shooter used a Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle and two 30-round magazines in a fit of misogynist violence that left 14 women dead.

The five-round limit doesn’t apply to pistol magazines, which are capped at 10 rounds. Because the Aero Survival Rifle fires pistol ammo from a pistol magazine, it can hold 10-round magazines without breaking the law – a legal high-capacity rifle.

The country’s gun laws also require a licence to buy firearms. That permit, the Possession and Acquisition Licence, or PAL, shows that the prospective buyer has passed an extensive safety course and police background checks. Mr. Kampos had a PAL, with an expiry of Dec. 6, 2016 – 107 days before the purchase date. While the clerk who sold him the gun didn’t seem to notice, a subsequent RCMP investigation “deemed that all store policies were followed and no charges were laid,” said Canadian Tire spokeswoman Joscelyn Dosanjh.

Receipts show that Mr. Kampos returned the following day at around 2:45 p.m. to buy a Nikon scope for just under $200. The highway shootings began six hours later.

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Dense forest surrounds the Slesse Memorial Trail near the stretch of highway where the shootings took place.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail /Rafal Gerszak


As the driver in the Dodge Caliber stared, Mr. Rose continued to feign sleep.

Things changed when, through a crack in his eyelids, he saw the Dodge move forward a few feet to narrow the Honda’s possible exit route.

Mr. Rose decided it was time to bolt. He sat up in time to see the driver turn to his right and pick something off his passenger seat.

Mr. Rose had been around guns for much of his life. There was a little .22-calibre rifle at his family cabin. In his 20s, he got a firearms licence and bought four rifles that had gone largely unused. He knew the precise terms for what slowly appeared over the Dodge’s window sill: scope, picatinny rail, muzzle.

Time slowed down. He began querying the images coming from his eyes to figure out the danger level. Was it a paint-ball gun? No. A BB gun? No. An airsoft gun? No. This is a fucking rifle, he thought.

He twisted the ignition, and the Honda revved to life. Just as he popped it into first gear, he felt something hit his right shoulder with the force of a sledgehammer and his right arm went limp. There was a hole in his windshield, just to the right of the steering wheel. He tried to rationalize it. Maybe it really was a paintball gun. People don’t just shoot at each other for no reason, he thought.

He slouched over the centre console. Three more shots came in quick succession, making a tight cluster of holes in the windshield and filling the car with flying glass. One round hit his face.

Most Canadian rifle magazines would be close to empty by now. But the pistol-magazine loophole meant the shooter had another six to squeeze off.

With his view obstructed, Mr. Rose remembered there was a narrow space to the right of the blue car where he might be able to squeeze out. He cut the wheel right, popped the clutch and gunned the engine.

Three more shots came, hitting the driver’s side door, one round slicing into his belly. Mr. Rose felt his focus blur into double vision. He managed to weave his car by the Dodge and started down the bumpy dirt road before veering back onto Chilliwack Lake Road.

As the four-cylinder engine roared past its red line, Mr. Rose tried to shift into second gear, but his right arm wouldn’t move. He lifted his left hand from the wheel, and grabbed second gear, then third. Soon he was flying down Chilliwack Lake Road, peering through the four bullet holes in the windshield.

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Evidence photos from the Kampos case show the bullet holes on Mr. Rose's windshield, and their trajectory inside the car.

Handouts/Handout

He turned to look for the blue car and saw it following about 200 metres back, keeping pace. His wits were returning. Even so, he was surprised at one point to look at the speedometer and see the needle at 140 km/h.

He thought about locations of the nearest police stations and hospitals – all at least 20 minutes away.

Seven kilometres down the road, he crested the hill that would bring him by the military firing range. He was still 20 kilometres from any major residential area.

His focus on the road kept him from making any kind of self-diagnosis, but he could feel blood trailing down his face and total immobility in his right arm. “I’m doing really well here,” he told himself. “I’m not passing out yet or anything.”

As he approached the gravel entrance to the range, a drab green Chevrolet pickup appeared, full of people in military fatigues.

For the second time that day, he could scarcely believe the images his eyes were relaying to his brain. The range was largely defunct. Could this really be Canadian Forces? “I bet they have a first-aid kit,” he thought. “And they might have guns.”

He decelerated and downshifted, hoping to get their attention. The truck kept going, creeping out from the gravel entrance and onto the road ahead of him.

He waved out the window with his one good arm and screamed, “No, no, no, don’t go. I need help.”

The soldier in the passenger seat looked at him and saw a scene straight from a war zone. The Civic was strafed with bullet holes. Rather than straightening out on the road, the truck kept turning left, making a wide arc back into the range’s gravel entrance.

Mr. Rose stopped the car on the gravel and wrenched himself from the driver’s seat and out the door.

“I’m fucking shot,” he bellowed.

His arm felt like a giant length of rope swinging from his shoulder. He rounded the bullet-riddled Honda and collapsed next to the front passenger side wheel, keeping the Civic between himself and the road behind him.

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As soon as he was horizontal, the men surrounded him. He could tell from the uniform they were Canadian Forces soldiers. Two more military trucks arrived.

“What happened?” one soldier said.

“There’s a blue car. He’s coming down the road behind me.” They looked up the road and saw nothing.

The soldiers sprang to action. One senior officer barked directions. A combat medic appeared and began cutting off Mr. Rose’s clothes. They plugged and bandaged the wounds and administered pain-killers.

He remembers a plain-clothes police officer showing up within a few minutes, followed shortly by an ambulance and a police emergency response team that happened to be having coffee at the bottom of Chilliwack Lake Road. The scene became littered with blue latex gloves, blood-pressure monitors and his discarded clothing.

Someone checked on Luna. She was fine, still lying quietly in the debris-covered backseat.

“My demeanour towards my assailant would have been very different if he’d hurt my dog,” Mr. Rose said.

A helicopter arrived and whisked him toward Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

The hatchback never reappeared along Chilliwack Lake Road. The RCMP took control of the scene, calling on a tactical unit, sniffer dogs and helicopter and the explosives unit, to retrace Mr. Rose’s route.

The canine unit and tactical officers drove up to Ford Mountain Forest Service Road. There, officers crept past the scene of the shooting and up a hill. There, they found Mr. Kampos crouched in a ditch, rifle by his side. He had more than 100 9-mm rounds remaining.

The RCMP declined to provide interviews with the officers involved, as the case remains before the courts.


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An evidence photo notes the injuries to Mr. Rose's chest after the shooting.

Handout/Handout


A gun-shot wound is several traumas in one. There’s the devastating path of the round as it carves through the body. Then there’s a pressure wave that damages tissue well beyond the primary bullet track. Lastly, and often more enduring, is the psychological damage.

In hospital, doctors stabilized Mr. Rose and attached a thicket of red, green and black wires to his body to monitor vital signs. He would live. His frenzied, near-blind escape had saved his life.

“He’d have killed me if I’d stayed put,” Mr. Rose told investigators at his hospital bed. “I think it’s gotta be a mental health thing. I mean, I don’t have any enemies that I know of. I get along with everybody.”

Now doctors set about preventing lasting damage. One bullet had pulverized the upper end of his right humerus, the bone connecting the shoulder to the elbow. Doctors had to disassemble his shoulder joint and recreate the bone using metal plates. Another bullet had sliced into his cheek, requiring 17 stitches. Other injuries to his abdomen and hands were left to heal on their own.

About a year after the shooting, shrapnel in his left hand began inflaming the surrounding tissue. He had two surgeries, both of which failed to recover the fragments. He quit his fork-lift job and now works resurfacing cabinets.

“I dealt with months of infection and not being able to use my left hand and not being able to raise my right arm all the way because of the shoulder injury,” he said, sipping a beer in his Chilliwack home. “This one on my face that could have hit teeth, jaw, brain, everything. We don’t know how close the four or five rounds that missed came.”

Near-misses – that’s what the truckers wonder about, too.

Though police announced Mr. Kampos was the highway gunman, he was only charged with the attempted murder of Mr. Rose, not the truck shootings. The bullet rounds recovered from the trucks had degraded so badly upon impact that they couldn’t be conclusively traced to the Aero Survival Rifle, leaving prosecutors little choice but to focus solely on the Rose shooting. “That part is hard to believe,” said Mr. Feduck, the truck driver. “There were so many other people that could have died and nobody has been charged with anything along those lines. I think there should be 12 or 14 charges of attempted murder for someone.”

The near-misses went largely ignored by the public and politicians. Unlike Toronto’s Danforth shooting the following year, or the Nova Scotia shooting this year, there were no speeches, no press releases, no vague promises of new restrictions on guns and the bullets they fire.

In 2019, the federal Liberals passed Bill C-71, firearms legislation that expanded background checks for gun licence applicants and requires gun shops to verify licences with the RCMP-run Canadian Firearms Program. But neither of those obligations has come into effect through regulation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed more gun control after the Danforth shooting, which left two people dead and 13 injured, but didn’t move on those promises until a gunman took 22 lives in Nova Scotia earlier this spring. The latest policy reaction, announced May 1, is a complicated tangle of new bans on hundreds of rifles. In the 1990s, the governing Liberals took a similar pick-and-choose approach to banning “military-type assault weapons,” in the words of then-Justice Minister Allan Rock. Gun-makers and gun-buyers simply found models that would skirt the rules. And they will again.

The Aero Survival Rifle, for instance, remains non-restricted, 10-round magazine and all.

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Mr. Kampos, shown shortly after his arrest.

Handout

The Kampos trial started in the fall of 2018 and soon fell apart.

As Mr. Kampos was set to take the stand, his lawyer, Mark Swartz, told the court he was concerned with Mr. Kampos’s mental state.

In Canada, defendants can be declared unfit to stand trial if a mental disorder prevents them from understanding the proceedings or communicating with counsel. After a series of assessments, the court deemed Mr. Kampos unfit. He’s now in Colony Farms forensic psychiatric hospital. The trial is on hold indefinitely.

Mr. Rose, meanwhile, has lost confidence in both the criminal justice system and the mental health system. “If you fail to treat the guy who needs treatment, you fail to protect the public,” he said.

He supports the recent Liberal gun bans, even though he’s pessimistic about their crime-fighting potential.

“I do feel that talk of guns is just a distraction from the real issue, which is the lack of a national mental-health program,” he said. “I have no confidence that this dire and inexcusable deficiency will ever be addressed.”

Up until he got shot, Mr. Rose had big plans for March 26, the day after the hike. A buddy was scheduled to come over and together they were going to fire up the old Chevy – the truck with no name – for the first time. The shooting delayed this maiden ignition by a full year. By then, he finally had a name in mind, something personal, something that gave people a hint about who he was. During his recovery, he’d read about a U.S. Air Force plane that had been shot more than 1,000 times while conducting a record 207 bombing missions during the Second World War.

Today, the Chevy’s front hood is emblazoned in big cursive letters with that plane’s nickname: Flak Bait.

Mr. Rose no longer seeks out the solitude of the Cascades like he used to. He’s got a girlfriend now. They’ve been isolating at his house with her two-year-old since the pandemic began. He talks openly of love and marriage. The hurt only returns when he’s working in the backyard. The swing of a sledgehammer or stroke of a handsaw can send a stabbing pain shooting up his left arm, his body reminding him of what his heart and mind have left behind.

Cameron Rose shows an entry-wound scar.

Patrick White/The Globe and Mail/The Globe and Mail


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