The hackivist group Anonymous has claimed responsibility for a cyberattack against the RCMP website this weekend, saying it is in retaliation for the death of one of its members who was shot by Mounties in British Columbia last Thursday.
Officials have not identified the deceased, saying only he was a masked man. People claiming to be part of Anonymous said the slain man was a member of a First Nations cell of Anonymous who was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.
The RCMP had been called because someone was disrupting a public meeting about the controversial Site C dam project. When the officers showed up at the event, at a hotel in Dawson Creek, in northeastern B.C., they ran into a second person and ended up firing on him.
"In other words the RCMP had the wrong person, and the Anon killed tried to tell them that," a member of the hackers collective told the Globe and Mail via e-mail.
A knife was found at the scene, according to Kellie Kirkpatrick, a spokeswoman for the Independent Investigations Office of BC, a police watchdog agency.
The e-mail from Anonymous said the member wore a pocket knife on his hip and was told by the Mounties to throw it on the ground.
"The Anon was in the act of attempting to comply with this order when he was shot and killed," said the e-mail sent to the Globe.
The hackers collective threatened to identify and release personal information about the officer who fired on the man.
"We will most certainly avenge one of our own when they are cut down in the streets while protesting the earth wrecking environmental policies of the Canadian government," the release said.
The communiqué also called on other Anonymous members "to remove the RCMP cyber infrastructure from the Internet."
For several hours on Sunday, the main website of the RCMP could not be accessed.
A Globe and Mail reporter was, however, able to access intermittently the website of the RCMP's E division, which is responsible for B.C. and has a slightly different domain name.
"Dear RCMP: Have you tried turning it off and back on again? Just trying to be helpful," someone taunted from what appears to be one of Anonymous' Twitter accounts.
That Twitter account, Operation Anon Down, said the dead man was a member of a "First Nation Anonymous cell."
Spokesmen for the force in Ottawa did not immediately answer requests for comment.
The confrontation started Thursday evening at the Stonebridge Hotel in Dawson Creek, where BC Hydro was holding a public information session about Site C, a hydro-electric project on the Peace River that is opposed by aboriginals.
The RCMP was called to a complaint of a man "causing a disturbance," according to the IIO, which investigates police-related incidents in British Columbia.
That man had left by the time the police officers arrived.
However, the IIO said, RCMP officers who showed up crossed paths with a masked man outside the hotel.
"A confrontation occurred and the male affected person was shot," the IIO said.
"He was transported to hospital however he did not survive his injuries."
In a cellphone video of the aftermath of the takedown, two RCMP officers point their guns at a man lying on the sidewalk outside the hotel restaurant.
One of the officers gets closer and kicks away an object that was on the ground.
Anonymous posted photos on Twitter that appeared to be of the shooting scene, showing a man on the ground with a Guy Fawkes mask.
Last month, hackers claiming to be from Anonymous disabled a number of federal government websites and e-mail servers, to protest the passage of C-51, the anti-terror legislation that gives more powers to intelligence and security agencies.