PENTICTON, B.C. — A former city employee described as a hard-working, civic-minded gentleman has been charged with four counts of murder after a series of daytime shootings that terrorized people in Penticton, B.C.
Dan McLaughlin of the B.C. prosecution service said Tuesday that three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder have been laid against John Brittain, 68.
Mayor John Vassilaki said Brittain was an employee in the city’s engineering department for several years.
Vassilaki said he was “very saddened” when he learned of the charges.
“He was a gentleman. He did his job well,” the mayor told a news conference. “He was very in favour of what our community was doing, was always involved in community matters, him and his wife.”
Kelly Sherman, president of Ecora Engineering and Resource Group, said Brittain joined the company two years ago as a civil engineer. He said Brittain was in the office briefly on the day of the shooting, but declined to give any further details.
“He was just soft spoken, quiet engineer. We’re shocked and saddened by this,” Sherman said.
Brittain appeared in court on Tuesday morning, at one point taking off his glasses and looking into the public gallery. He is expected to make his next court appearance May 8. None of the allegations against him has been tested in court.
RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager said two men and two women in their 60s and 70s were killed, but police are not releasing any further information about the victims.
Rudi Winter, 71, was identified by his wife, Renate, as one of the victims. She told the Penticton Herald he was shot outside a duplex where he was doing maintenance work for a friend.
De Jager said the shootings were targeted and police are trying to determine a motive. The accused and the victims knew each other, he added, but wouldn’t elaborate.
De Jager said police received a call about a possible shooting at about 10:30 a.m. on Monday.
Police say after the first shooting on Heales Avenue, the suspect drove about five kilometres to a second location on Cornwall Drive where the other three people were attacked.
De Jager said a man was killed on Heales. A man and a woman were found in one home on Cornwall and a woman was found in the neighbouring residence.
De Jager said an unarmed suspect walked into the RCMP detachment about an hour after the first report of a possible shooting and surrendered.
He said police are continuing to offer support to residents of the community who need it.
“I recognize that these heart-breaking events have deeply impacted our community and will continue to do so for some time,” he said.
A young buck wandered down the quiet residential street of Cornwall Drive as residents returned home from work and school on Tuesday.
Thuy Do, who lives a few doors down from the homes where the shootings took place, said she and her mother stayed home all day out of fear.
“I’m so scared,” she said, “I can’t sleep. My mom is scared, she can’t go outside.”
Sigrid Boersma said she has lived in the “very nice neighbourhood” for about 16 years and described the shootings as unbelievable.
“The whole thing makes people shaky, insecure. I feel that the whole street should get some help after this because we’re all shaking.”
Local legislature member Dan Ashton, who was mayor of Penticton between 2008 and 2013, said he didn’t remember Brittain from his time at city hall. But he said the community has been deeply affected by the violence.
“It’s been very traumatic for the community. It is a close-knit community with a lot of people who are long-term residents here and my heartfelt, sincere condolences go out to the individuals affected by this, family and friends.”