One man from Surrey is dead and a Kamloops home is reduced to rubble after a six-hour standoff in Dufferin.
“This has been a terrible night for everybody,” Kamloops RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant Learned said as he addressed reporters at about 12:45 a.m. today (May 18), with a fully engulfed house fire serving as backdrop for the impromptu media scrum.
The incident began just before 5:30 p.m., when police received a report of shots being fired at 1486 Cannel Dr. — a single-family home off Pacific Way, just north of Duffy’s Pub.
Neighbours called 911 after apparently spotting a man wearing a trench coat and armed with a shotgun enter the home. A single shot was then heard.
The house was home to a single mother and her four children.
Learned described the gunman — a 48-year-old from Surrey — as “an estranged acquaintance” of the woman, and he was believed to be in possession of a five-kilogram box of explosives in addition to the firearm.
The single shot heard was believed to have been fired into the ceiling of the home. Learned said the gunman then took the woman hostage.
The woman’s boyfriend was in the home at the time, and he escaped with three of the children. The fourth child fled through a bedroom window.
Homes within a 200-metre radius — approximately 20 in all — were evacuated. Residents were offered temporary shelter at Interior Savings Centre.
Just after 7 p.m., police contacted the gunman by phone. An hour later, neighbours reported seeing the man closing the home’s blinds.
At about 8:30 p.m., a Kelowna-based RCMP emergency response team — equivalent to a municipal police force’s SWAT team — arrived at the scene and set up a command post in the parking lot of a nearby strip mall.
Learned said police maintained phone contact with the gunman throughout the incident, and learned the man was distraught about his break-up with the hostage two years earlier.
He also said he had wired explosives to the gas tank of his vehicle, and at one point told officers he would walk out of the home with the hostage handcuffed to him and a bomb switch in his hand. He said the bomb would detonate if police shot him.
He did not exit the home.
At about midnight, the female hostage left the house. It’s not known if she was released or if she escaped. Learned said she was unharmed.
Not long after that, at 12:09 a.m., a series of bangs could be heard, followed by an audible groaning noise.
Moments later, fire could be seen inside the home. It quickly spread, and Kamloops Fire Rescue crews were called to the scene within minutes.
Firefighters were initially told to report to the RCMP command post a few blocks away, then told to go directly to the scene and check in with police.
Mounties held fire crews back because of the potential of explosives in the home.
At 12:40 a.m., firefighters began dousing the fully engulfed home with water. Five minutes later — the blaze still burning intensely — an explosion shook the area.
Learned said officers confirmed there was a bomb in the vehicle the gunman drove to the home, and they believed there were additional explosives inside.
There was some concern the fire would spread to neighbouring homes or nearby hillsides, but crews had it under control shortly after 1 a.m.
The structure was totally destroyed.
Neighbour Paul Zaetsoff, who lives a block away from the house, said he couldn’t believe what he was seeing in the usually quiet Dufferin neighbourhood.
“It is really bizarre,” he said.
“It’s very sad to see this so close to home. This is actually unbelievable that it’s happening here.”
The investigation into the incident is underway.
No names have been made public, and police are expected to remain at the scene overnight.
— with files from Michael Potestio
Kamloops RCMP are holding a news conference at 1:30 p.m. to provide further updates. Check kamloopsthisweek.com for more as the story develops.