Witnesses are recounting frightening moments, after a gunpoint confrontation between West Shore RCMP and a distraught man with a handgun played out on Veterans Memorial Parkway Saturday evening.
And some of the people who found themselves trapped nearby in their car as the man fired two shots are crediting officers for resolving the dangerous situation safely.
“It’s like we had accidental front row seat to something we didn’t really want to see in the first place,” said Jan Horwood. Horwood and her wife Sharon Gallagher were driving south on Veterans Memorial Parkway, with Gallagher’s daughter and their 22-month-old granddaughter in the backseat, just after 5pm.
“[The officer] got out of her car and she had her rifle with her,” said Gallagher. “Right away we were thinking obviously this is not a traffic stop, this is something else.”
Then they saw the man at the centre of the situation
“He was flailing and just seemed like he was very very distraught, very upset and it took me a moment but then I registered that he had a gun in his hand,” said Gallagher.
Driving in the other direction with his partner, Jeff Davies found himself a few carlengths away when traffic came to a stop. His partner got out of the car to ask what was going on.
“Then I heard Karin shout ‘he’s got a gun, he’s got a gun’ then heard [what] sounded like a shot she jumped back in the car we followed other cars that wer turning to get out of there,” he said.
“As we did, I could smell gunpowder in the air and I think it’s only at that point I realized just how dangerous the situation this was, we were very very close.”
Horwood and Gallagher stayed put, waiting for directions from police as the distraught man fired both the first then a second shot minutes later. They say neither seemed aimed at police.
“He wasn’t aiming [the gun] at anybody, he had it down like it was almost an extension of his hand like he was flailing around,” said Gallagher. “Almost like he didn’t know he even had it, or what he was doing,” added Horwood.
The women remained nearby in their car for the first hour, until police started clearing the surrounding area. They say the calm response police displayed throughout as they talked with the man was impressive.
“The one police officer standing to my left you could see the tremble in her hand, so you could see the fear and emotion that was pumping through them,” said Gallagher. “To be that close and see the looks on their faces, I could tell that they wanted this to go down the right way.”
After nearly three hours it did, as police negotiators convinced the man to surrender just after 8pm, and he was taken away in an ambulance. There’s no word yet if the 36-year-old will face charges.
Horwood and Gallagher credit the RCMP’s professionalism and patience for resolving the situation safely, when it could have ended so differently.
“You want to know the people you trust to keep you safe are going to do their job in a respectful and compassionate way, and that’s exactly what we saw yesterday,” said Gallagher.