PENTICTON, B.C. — The RCMP say a 60-year-old man is in custody after four targeted shootings in Penticton, B.C., on Monday left two men and two women dead in what a senior police officer described as a "very dark day'' for the city.
Supt. Ted De Jager said the suspect turned himself in at the city's police headquarters, which he characterized as unusual in such investigations.
"From an investigative perspective, we are glad that he did that, that the community isn't on pins and needles,'' he told a news conference.
De Jager said the suspect and the four victims knew each other and police are recommending homicide charges be laid.
The 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, said De Jager, the regional district commander for Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen in the B.C. Interior.
Earlier, police cordoned off the city's downtown and were telling people to avoid the central core because of a serious situation unfolding. They asked the public to follow the direction of police and to avoid specific areas, but later lifted those restrictions.
De Jager said the community came together to help police officers as they conducted their investigation.
"Although this is a very dark day for Penticton, the brightness in the community is how everyone stepped up,'' he said.
"Everyone was calling us, they were helping the police. Even from people bringing water to the people on scene to supporting some of the people who saw what happened and some of the witnesses.
"Everyone stood by and co-operated and gave support, and that's the strength of the community at a time like this.''
De Jager said one person was found dead in the north end of the city; the three others were found in the south end at neighbouring houses.
Police were trying to determine a motive for the shootings.
"It's not random,'' said De Jager. "This wasn't somebody walking down the street with a rifle.''
We're still trying to find the motive for this whole incident, so that's part of the ongoing investigation.Supt. Ted De Jager, RCMP
He said more than 30 officers were involved in the response to the shootings and a sweep did not find any other victims.
An emergency response team was also deployed to a hotel in the city, but police said it was not related to the shootings and the incident was resolved.
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,'' 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. in the north end of the city 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 laying 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,'' 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, 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.''
It's a very quiet area, so it's a little alarming for this to be happening.Shelley Halvorson, neighbour
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, 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.
'It's worse than that'
Wayne Shortreed, who lives in the southern part of the city close to where the three individuals were found dead, said police had shut down at least two blocks of his residential street.
Officers wearing bulletproof vests and police dogs were patrolling the area, he said.
Shortreed said he didn't hear gunshots, possibly because he was operating noisy machinery, but he spoke with an officer who told him he had knocked on his door at about 1 p.m., but there was no answer.
"I asked him, 'What's going on?' '' Shortreed said. "What happened? A hit and run?' He goes, 'Oh no, it's worse than that.' ''