A police officer is dead after a shooting in Abbotsford, B.C., around noon PT on Monday.
Police Chief Bob Rich described the officer as a “hero” at a news conference.
“He was protecting our community. He will always be my hero,” Rich said.
The officer was killed while trying to arrest a suspect who had allegedly opened fire in the parking lot of a shopping centre in the 3200 block of Mt. Lehman Road just before noon, according to Rich.
The police chief said he had met with the dead officer’s spouse and delivered the news in person.
“It’s something I never wanted to have to do in my life, but I did it today, folks,” he said.
The officer’s name has not been released.
Police say the violence began at about 11:35 a.m., when a witness called 911 to report a possible stolen vehicle. The caller then used their car to block the suspect from leaving.
The suspect then stepped out of his vehicle with a shotgun, and began firing at the caller and other witnesses. When police arrived, they returned fire, and one officer was shot.
The suspect fled the scene in the car, but was arrested after more shots were fired in the intersection of Mt. Lehman Road and Fraser Highway.
“It was a very dynamic takedown,” Rich said of the arrest.
The suspect, an Alberta man in his 60s, was injured in the takedown and taken to hospital, but Rich says he is expected to survive.
The injured officer was pronounced dead soon after he arrived in hospital. No one else was hurt in the encounter.
“Our officers’ actions today, all of them, were absolutely heroic,” Rich said. “They responded in a way that was designed to protect the public. This person was trying to kill members of the public and our officers responded.”
Derek Middleton was eating at a sushi restaurant nearby and witnessed the aftermath.
“I looked outside and the officer was down and bleeding,” said Middleton in an interview with CBC News.
“So I just closed the door and locked it and said call 911.”
Abbotsford resident James Graham was driving in the area when he saw police cruisers crash into a Mustang behind him.
He then heard several gunshots and witnessed what was taking place through his rearview mirror.
“Then there was gunfire — six or seven shots I’d say — it didn’t even look like anyone was out of the vehicle yet,” said Graham in a phone interview with CBC News.
“I was a little startled, but I just hit the gas and got out of there. I just hoped that no one was injured.”
‘A tragic day’
The Independent Investigations Office of B.C., which is called out in incidents where people are seriously injured or killed in encounters with police, is now investigating the injuries to the suspect.
Ron MacDonald, the IIO’s chief civilian director, said the man had injuries to his head and face, but was conscious and able to speak. He said it wasn’t clear where the suspect’s vehicle was stolen, but it has an Alberta licence plate.
MacDonald also offered his condolences to the friends, family and coworkers of the dead officer.
“It’s certainly a tragic day for the Abbotsford Police Department,” he said.
Premier John Horgan issued a statement as well, saying he was saddened by the news.
“As British Columbians, we are filled with grief at this tragic loss and give gratitude to all those who put their lives on the line for us every day,” Horgan said.
Only one other Abbotsford police officer is believed to have died from injuries sustained at work, according to the B.C. Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation.
Const. John David Goyer developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis after being hurt during an arrest on Sept. 26, 2001.
Though a link between ALS and physical injuries has yet to be proven conclusively, Goyer’s neurologist determined that the disease was triggered by his injuries, and WorkSafeBC approved a workplace compensation claim based on that diagnosis. Goyer died from the disease five years later.
Between 1961 and the end of 2015, 10 officers were killed in the line of duty by the direct actions of other people, according to Statistics Canada. Across the country over the same 54-year time period, 144 police officers were killed.