A suspect is in custody after four people were shot and killed in Penticton, B.C., on Monday, sending rifle-armed officers charging through city streets warning residents to stay indoors.
Two men and two women were killed before a 60-year-old man turned himself in at the police station, RCMP Superintendent Ted De Jager said Monday at a news conference in Penticton, in south-central British Columbia, about a five-hour drive from Vancouver.
Supt. De Jager would not speculate on a motive, but he said the shootings were not random and the public is not believed to be at risk. Police have not released the names of any victims.
The BC Prosecution Service on Tuesday said John Brittain has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder. Mr. Brittain is expected to make an appearance Tuesday in Penticton Provincial Court.
“The loss of four people from our community under these tragic circumstances is difficult to comprehend, but I can assure the citizens of Penticton that the right resources and supports are in place to move the investigation forward,” Supt. De Jager said.
Mounties received a call about a possible shooting in the downtown at about 10:30 a.m. and the suspect was taken into custody about an hour later. The man’s decision to turn himself in was unusual, the officer said.
“I can say from an investigative perspective, we are glad he did that so the community isn’t on pins and needles [worrying that he is at large].”
Earlier, police cordoned off the city’s downtown and were telling people to avoid the area because of a serious, unfolding situation.
They asked the public to follow the direction of police and to avoid specific areas, but later lifted those restrictions. More than 30 officers were involved in the response to the shootings.
Supt. De Jager said one person was found dead in the north end of the city; the three others were found in the south end. The victims were discovered in three locations within a five-kilometre radius, police said.
Jeff Schwarz said one of the victims was his uncle Rudi Winter. Mr. Schwarz said the violence may have been related to a dispute between neighbours and emphasized Mr. Winter was a kind, non-violent man.
“You would never meet a kinder, more gentle person,” Mr. Schwarz said.
Joyce Brennan, a downtown resident, said she was taking out the recycling sometime between 9:30 and 10 a.m. when she heard the sound of three muffled bangs in the distance.
“But there is a lot of construction going on around us here, so I just assumed it was something to do with that,” Ms. Brennan said.
She said her son called a short time later to say someone was killed near her house.
Shelley Halvorson was in her office at J&E Automotive Services Ltd. at around 10:30 a.m. when she heard “pop, pop, pop, pop,” she said.
“All of a sudden, all these cop cars were swarming the area, and an ambulance showed up, and we went outside and I saw a guy laying in the grass,” she said.
The man was lying on the lawn outside a home, she said.
“We were told we had to get back inside because there was a guy – who shot this guy – who was on the loose with a rifle,” Ms. Halvorson said.
Three or four officers with rifles and a police dog charged down a nearby side street, while other police officers stayed behind and taped off the area, Ms. Halvorson said.
“It was kind of scary,” she said. “It’s a very quiet area, so it’s a little alarming for this to be happening.”
Daniel Kenward lives a few houses down and also heard gunshots before police cars arrived and he saw a man lying on the grass outside. The man appeared to be older with white or grey hair, he said.
About 45 minutes later, he heard a sound of “anguish,” and his wife looked out the window and saw an older woman hugging someone, Mr. Kenward added.
“I don’t know what her relationship was to him or anything like that. I just know she was upset. You know that sound,” he said.
Justin Stewart lives on Cornwall Avenue, another location related to the investigation, and said he was about to leave his house for a walk with his dog when he heard loud bangs that he thought might be gunshots.
When he looked out his window, he saw a man with what looked like a gun on the street.
In response to questions, Supt. De Jager said the victims do not include the suspect’s ex-wife. He also would not say whether the person arrested was known to police or how he was connected to the four victims.
“Anything like that is related to motive and is part of the ongoing investigation,” Supt. De Jager said.
With reports from The Canadian Press