NEWS

Peter Degroot sought by police in Kootenay manhunt

10/11/2014 01:23 EDT | Updated 12/11/2014 05:59 EST
The setting is beautiful, but the mood is tense in the small B.C. Kootenay community of Slocan after a heavily armed man allegedly shot at police Thursday then fled into the woods.

Peter Degroot, 45, is still at large, but the lockdown for the community of about 300 residents, an hour north of Nelson, has been largely lifted, although the area around his home remains locked down as police continue their hunt.

They're combing backyards, watching streets and restricting highway access while a helicopter flies overhead.

"I was watching TV. I heard three gunshots so I got off the couch and went outside, which was a silly thing to do, but the RCMP told me to back in the house," recalled resident Pattie Burge, who lives a couple of doors down from Degroot and Thursday's events.

Police allege Degroot took a shot at them after they were called over a dispute between two people.  

While the officers were on scene on Slocan West Road near Gravel Pit Road, a man allegedly shot at them with a long rifle.

No one was injured, but the man fled into the surrounding forest. He was believed to be equipped with multiple firearms, according to police.

Just across the river from where it happened, a class of four- to seven-year-olds was on a field trip

"They had walkie-talkies and they had radioed in that they heard gunshots and then we lost communication with them, said  W.E. Graham school principal Ed Nielson

Nielson was heading to the river when RCMP told him to lock down the school. All the students were eventually gathered at the school until parents could pick them up.

Degroot is well known around Slocan for his animals. He had cows, goats and chickens, and while some say he cared for them a great deal, other say they weren't cared for enough.

"I don`t know where he got his money from, but he had a problem feeding the animals right? That is what a lot of people complained about right?" said neighbour Roy Burge.

Neighbours say the B.C. SPCA says inspectors had visited the property before, sometimes with RCMP present.

Police said Degroot is considered to be armed and dangerous and they are asking the public not to approach him, but to call 911. The have searched Degroot's home and seized a number of firearms. 

Police say extra resources have been brought into the small village to assist in the manhunt, including air support, the Southeast District Emergency Response Team, a crisis negotiator, police dogs and a tactical armoured vehicle.

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