SLOCAN CITY, B.C. — Mounties have named a suspect who allegedly fired at police and sparked a manhunt in a British Columbia village where residents were told to stay in their homes.
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 in southeastern B.C.
“With the return of sufficient light to the area we hope to bring this fluid and unfolding event to a quick and safe resolution,” Smart said. “We respect that there has been a lot of police activity over the past 24 hours and that will continue today.”
Police have seized a number of firearms from DeGroot’s home, Smart said, as he asked the public to be patient during the “tense situation.”
“The situation is being continually assessed and I remain committed to providing information when I can,” he said in a statement, adding a crisis negotiator has joined an emergency response team and a helicopter is being used to try and find DeGroot.
Police say the incident began over a dispute between two people just after noon Thursday.
“While on the scene, a male suspect allegedly fired upon police with a long rifle before retreating into the surrounding forest,” Const. Kris Clark said.
RCMP evacuated some homes, ordered residents to stay indoors and asked that the movements of police not be discussed on social media to ensure the safety of officers and the public.
Early on Friday, a lone RCMP cruiser with its lights flashing ensured that nobody was allowed into the community.
People leaving the area were informed they would not be allowed back in until the gunman was found.
A total of 40 officers have been brought in from a number of B.C. detachments. Several of them wore flak jackets and used infrared goggles as they went through the thick brush and trees surrounded by low-lying mountains.
But patches of fog limited visibility in certain areas.
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.
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.
“The RCMP provided escort,” Jones said. “Parents are picking their children up at a safe spot south of the village.”
Village fire chief John Gates said police stopped him at about 2:30 p.m. Pacific time 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.
Gates said police cars were blocking local streets to the south, north and east.