Nanaimo RCMP are investigating after a local businessman was shot while retrieving some items that were allegedly stolen over the weekend.
On March 12, shortly after 3:30 p.m., police were called to the area of Mill Street and Barsby Avenue for reports of an altercation. When they were responding, officers found a group of adults in a parking lot on Terminal Avenue, and one person was found to have an apparent gunshot wound.
Paramedics attended and brought the person with a gunshot wound to the hospital for emergency medical treatment. He remains in the hospital in stable condition.
The victim has been identified by friends as Clint Smith, owner of Ernies Blackpoint Repair.
Jeff Callaghan was with Smith and four others when they went to the homeless encampment along the Millstone River near Terminal Avenue to retrieve several items, including a table saw and trolley used to move motors.
“We kept trying to get everybody into a group so we could deal with them and one guy he kept misfiring, the gun wouldn’t work at first,” said Callaghan.
“It looked like a 22 calibre pellet gun that he had, but the other guy had a 22 calibre rifle, and he was taking potshots at us through the bush.”
While investigating, RCMP say two people of interest were taken into police custody on unrelated warrants.
The original altercation scene on Mill Street and Barsby Avenue was secured by officers for forensic officers and police dogs to search.
Officers located and seized one firearm however no suspects have been arrested.
“Investigators believe this incident was the result of a group of individuals who went to the encampment to retrieve stolen property, and as a result, an altercation ensued,” said R. Const. Gary O’Brien of the Nanaimo RCMP.
“We kind of just wanted to show that the neighbourhood was standing up and saying no more of this bulls**t. And it went a little further than it should have because we were not expecting them to have guns,” added Callaghan.
“We understand people are really frustrated,” said O’Brien.
“They want to see justice, and sometimes they want to take it into their own hands. I’ve never seen these situations where they end well for the people involved or for the quote-unquote suspects. You’ve got to contact us.”
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog says people are becoming increasingly desperate as not enough is being done to address issues.
“Desperate people are living on our streets, and desperate people are being victimized by many who have severe drug addiction, mental health, brain injury issues,” Krog told CHEK News, noting more needs to be done to provide care for mental health and addictions, providing housing and a continuum of care, and addressing the “catch-and-release” court system.
“All of this has come together, it’s a crisis. It’s a crisis for those in the streets, it’s a crisis for those who are being victimized by it. Frankly, the government, and by that I mean the provincial and the federal government, to a certain extent, need to accept this.”
Krog says the issue is not policing.
“If we could police ourselves out of this, I’d go back to the public and ask for a 25 per cent tax increase and say, ‘Fine, we’re going to solve your problem,'” said Krog.
“It is not about policing, it is about people who are in such significant difficulty, that their behaviours are uncontrollable, and it has led to the kind of crime and frustration that causes somebody to put their life at risk, I would say with great respect, stupidly to go and try and retrieve their private property because they don’t feel that the police and the public and government is defending their rights.”
Following this shooting, community groups in Nanaimo are calling on all levels of government to do more to address crime.
“We know this is a big topic, but we cannot continue to ignore it. Our Provincial and Federal judicial policies are putting the law-abiding, unarmed public at serious risk on a daily basis in Nanaimo, and this is impacting the public, businesses, and families of all walks of life,” Collen Middleton, interim chair of the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association said in a news release.
“Enough was enough a long time ago. It is time for change now.”
“He just wanted his things back,” added NAPSA member Todd Trimble. “That’s what he wanted, he just wanted his things back and instead he ends up shot. It absolutely ridiculous. It’s attempted murder.”
Anyone with information or dash cam footage is asked to contact the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345.