Terry Hadland, a Peace River farmer, says he should have got the police bullet that killed a man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask outside a Site C open house this summer.
"He created a diversion so I could get away," Mr. Hadland told The Globe and Mail in an interview. "He stepped up and took that shot for me, that's for sure."
RCMP were called to the open house in Dawson Creek on July 16 after getting calls about a man causing a disturbance at the British Columbia Hydro public information session.
Mr. Hadland said he was the man causing trouble, but he left before police arrived, and officers confronted another man, who was reportedly carrying a knife and wearing the trademark mask of the hacktivist group Anonymous. Moments later, shots were fired, and James McIntyre, a dishwasher at Le's Family Restaurant, was dead outside the Stonebridge Hotel's Fixx Urban Grill.
In response to the shooting, Anonymous promised retribution, subsequently posting a 2014 Treasury Board memo about Canadian Security Intelligence Service funding, and threatening to leak more material.
Mr. Hadland, 66, said he did not know Mr. McIntyre, 48, and regrets that his actions inadvertently brought police into conflict with him. "It's tragic, that's for damn sure," he said. "They were trying to get me."
Mr. Hadland said if police had found him instead of Mr. McIntyre, the incident would have ended peacefully. "I would have obeyed them," he said.
Mr. Hadland, who lives off the grid on a farm in the Peace River district, said he went to the open house to protest against the controversial Site C dam.
"I'd been planning it for a couple of weeks," he said. "I walked into the room … I thought, 'I'm just going to push them a bit.'"
Mr. Hadland said BC Hydro officials were talking to members of the public at information tables covered with pamphlets, maps and posters.
"I flipped a couple [of tables]," he said. "I ripped up the rest of the maps …. They had placards. … I started breaking up those."
Mr. Hadland said he was quickly surrounded by BC Hydro staff, but the confrontation did not become violent.
"They didn't try to push me," he said. "I made my statement and I walked out."
Mr. Hadland said he assumes 911 calls were made during his protest, but added that if anyone reported a violent incident, then the police were misinformed and may have arrived expecting serious trouble.
"It was all very peaceful," he said. "The police could have showed up and been amicable."
When it was suggested that tipping over tables and tearing up posters might seem threatening to some, Mr. Hadland agreed.
"Oh, it could have been," he acknowledged.
Mr. Hadland said he passed within metres of Mr. McIntyre in the parking lot but did not see a knife or a mask.
"I thought he was a BC Hydro person [because] he kept turning away and trying to hide his face," he said.
Mr. Hadland was worried police were coming, so he jumped in his vehicle and drove away without looking back. He said he went to the RCMP the next day, identified himself as the man who disrupted the meeting, and told police he was concerned someone had made a 911 call "that wasn't valid" because his protest was not violent.
Arthur Hadland, a former director of Peace River Regional District, confirmed his cousin was the man who disrupted the Site C open house.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of B.C. is investigating the police shooting of Mr. McIntyre.
"It is not our practice to provide specific details about an investigation while it is still active – what I can say is that while we obtain all accessible and available information we believe is relevant to the IIO investigation, our focus is on the actions of the police officers," Kellie Kilpatrick, an IIO spokesperson said in an e-mail.
"Since our investigation of the initial disturbance is a parallel investigation to that of the IIO's investigation which is still ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time," Corporal Dave Tyreman of the RCMP's North District said in a separate e-mail.
BC Hydro spokesman Dave Conway declined to comment on Mr. Hadland's version of events.