Suspect named in massive B. C. manhunt
RCMP lock down village of Slocan in search for man who allegedly shot at police
SLOCAN — The confrontation that led to the lockdown of an entire community included an exchange of gunfire between police and a male suspect, says a senior Mountie.
Peter DeGroot, 45, is armed and dangerous and known to police, RCMP Chief Supt. Frank Smart said Friday after an overnight search for the man who escaped into a forest west of Slocan.
A crisis negotiator, emergency response team, police dogs, a helicopter and a tactical- armoured vehicle are being used to try to find DeGroot, and police have seized a number of firearms from the man’s home, said Smart.
Residents are also being told to stay in their homes.
Smart provided fresh information Friday about the incident that began a day earlier in a dispute between two people.
“During that investigation it’s alleged that a male suspect, armed with a rifle, shot at police who were on scene investigating,” said Smart. “The male suspect fled into the woods when police returned fire.”
A containment zone was later set up in the area, and Smart said members of the emergency response team evacuated homes and removed an officer who was unable to safely leave the scene.
“To do this, we utilized our RCMP tactical armoured- vehicle within the containment zone overnight,” he said.
RCMP have asked that the movements of police not be discussed on social media to ensure the safety of officers and the public.
“We continue to assess the risk to public safety and commit to update the public when the situation changes,” said Smart, adding the lockdown will continue until police can resolve the situation.
Early Friday a lone RCMP cruiser ensured nobody entered the town, and people leaving were told to stay out until the gunman was found.
A total of 40 officers have been brought in from a number of B. C. detachments. Several of them used infrared goggles as they scoured the thick brush and trees surrounded by low- lying mountains. Patches of fog limited visibility.
Some residents opted to sit or sleep in their cars on the road outside of the village, which can be seen peeking through the pine trees down below.
Cal Aylmer was out fishing when the manhunt began on Thursday. She could hear sirens in the distance, but assumed police were rushing to a traffic accident on the highway.
“By the time I came back in the evening, I’d forgotten about that, too,” she said.
“I stumbled right into the SWAT team, who thought I was ( the suspect) for a moment or two, so it was a little bit exciting.”
Officers barred her from returning to her house, so she headed to the local gas station to stay with a friend. After a sleepless night and a number of attempts to cross the police line, she was finally allowed home at 7 or 8 a. m. on Friday.
“I’ve just been holed up in the house since then,” she said.
She added that she’s never spoken with DeGroot, but knows that neighbours have called the B. C. SPCA in the past with concerns about animals on his property.
Aylmer was supposed to head to Kootenay Lake on Friday to participate in a fishing derby scheduled for the next day, but that plan is now on hold.
She said she will be very disappointed if she can’t participate.
“It’s a big deal the derby, and I’m a little woman with a little boat, and I decided to throw down the gauntlet and challenge all those people over there,” she said.
“I’d been preparing myself in every way possible for the last week, getting totally stoked and tweaking the gear and doing some research, and just psyching myself up and telling people I was going to do it so that I couldn’t chicken out.”
Allen Malakoff said the man police are looking for was not originally from the area and tends to keep to himself. He said that if he doesn’t want to be found, searchers will have their work cut out for them.
“There are old mines, log cabins, a little bit of everything,” Malakoff said.
“If you wanted to disappear in the forest up here, you can pretty easily.”
Jim Gillman got a rude surprise when he returned with a new boat and found he was not allowed home. The boat was parked on a side road into the village.
“I’m not happy about it. I had a whole romantic weekend planned with my wife on our new boat,” he said with a chuckle.
Gillman said he doesn’t know the suspect.
“I live on the other side of the river from him. I drive by him every day. I know who he is. I’ve tried to talk to him but he’s just really out there.”
Jeff Jones, superintendent of School District 8, said all students and staff were evacuated from the school in Slocan City on Thursday as police began warning residents about the suspected shooter.
Village fire Chief John Gates said police stopped him at about 2: 30 p. m. while he was on his way to pick up his car from a mechanic’s shop.
“A constable came out and stopped us and told us to turn around and go back home,” he said.