It was the type of manhunt B.C. simply isn't used to seeing. Police warned anyone who had contact with the gunman with the high-powered rifle that their life could be in danger, that they could be the next victim on his growing list. His links throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island meant the net was cast wide, a reality that sparked fear throughout the region.
It all came to a sudden, violent end in this rural section of Maple Ridge on Wednesday, as Angus David Mitchell was shot dead by police. His green Ford Aerostar was spotted by a member of the public less than an hour after police issued its rare public warning. When officers ordered Mr. Mitchell out of the van that doubled as his home, he exited with the same weapon that sparked a violent spree on regular citizens that British Columbians have gotten used to seeing across the border in Seattle, but not in this province.
Mr. Mitchell was a person of interest in the slayings of two people inside the Royal Oak Sushi House on Sunday night. The double homicide initially confounded investigators due to the lack of motive. Neither victim was known to police and there did not appear to be any obvious signs of robbery.
Mr. Mitchell, 26, only appeared on the RCMP's radar after police said he shot his former landlord on Tuesday. The landlord is in serious condition.
The owner of a Victoria security firm Mr. Mitchell had worked for received a call at 2 a.m. telling him to take extra precautions. About seven hours later, RCMP issued a similar warning to anyone who had any sort of conflict with Mr. Mitchell, at any point. Members of the public were urged not to approach him.
The RCMP's news conference had barely ended when reports came in that police had surrounded a vehicle in Maple Ridge, about 30 kilometres east.
Superintendent Dave Walsh, officer in charge of the Ridge Meadows RCMP, said plainclothes officers set up surveillance. The emergency response team was then called in, as were police dogs and a helicopter.
Mr. Mitchell came out of his vehicle with his weapon in hand and a shootout ensued. The Vancouver Police Department – an outside force – has been called in to investigate exactly what happened. Mr. Walsh couldn't say how many times Mr. Mitchell was struck. None of the approximately 20 officers on scene was injured.
Supt. Walsh said there had been no indication Mr. Mitchell would come to the Maple Ridge area.
Craig Marquis, who works near the scene of the shootout, said he first heard a couple of gunshots, then a short burst.
"It sounded like machine-gun fire, or it could have been a whole bunch of cops shooting together," he said in an interview. "Then we heard on the police radio, 'Suspect down.'"
Jessica Fergusson, who works with Mr. Marquis at MREC Feed & Tack, said Mr. Mitchell appeared to have been shot in the chest. She saw him being transferred from an ambulance to a medical evacuation helicopter.
"They were doing compressions on his chest the whole time, for about 15 minutes before they loaded him in the helicopter," she said. "They had him strapped down. I could see his hand hanging down."
As suddenly as it seemed to start, the manhunt was over. Supt. Walsh said the shootout was not the resolution police were looking for, and Wednesday was not a happy day.
Mr. Mitchell's death – and lack of criminal record – mean questions remain about his motives. What transpired in the Royal Oak Sushi House, for instance, might never be known.
Gunman killed in shootout without criminal history
Angus David Mitchell was largely unknown to police when he was shot by officers in Maple Ridge, following a public safety alert that named him as an "armed and dangerous" person of interest in three shootings.
He lived in his van, was recently evicted from a rental suite in Vancouver and had occasional work at a security firm in Victoria. But beyond that, Mr. Mitchell's life is a puzzle that police are still trying to piece together, following the shootout that ended with his death on Wednesday.
Whatever link he might have had to two people killed in a sushi restaurant on Sunday remains under active investigation, and no motive is known. But police do know the 51-year-old man shot in his driveway on Tuesday was Mr. Mitchell's former landlord.
Corporal Rick Skolrood said Mr. Mitchell, 26, "was not on our radar" before that, although he had been named in one minor complaint.
Sergeant Jennifer Pound, of the RCMP Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said Mr. Mitchell was tentatively linked to the two Sunday shootings because "a similar weapon" was used, and "when you see shootings so similar within a few days then it really does raise some red flags."
A glimpse into Mr. Mitchell's personal life appears on his Facebook page, where he posted an obscenity-laced rant against Mirko Filipovic, the president and owner of Themis Security Services Ltd., in Victoria.
Mr. Filipovic said he hired Mr. Mitchell several times for security assignments, but never had any trouble with him, and was startled when police called to warn him a former employee might pose a threat.
Robert Gordon, director of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, said the Facebook rant was not so extreme that it should have alerted police to any problem. He said Mr. Mitchell's post "just reads like an angry employee who's been fired," and not the ravings of someone who is about to go on a killing rampage.