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RCMP are still on scene this morning after officers shot and killed a masked man outside a restaurant in Dawson Creek last night.
Investigators from the Independent Investigations Office boarded a flight from Vancouver this morning to Fort St. John and are expected to be in Dawson Creek around 11 a.m. this morning.
The shooting took place outside the Fixx Urban Grill restaurant at the Stonebridge Hotel on Highway 2 near the outskirts of the city. RCMP were called to the restaurant around 6:30 p.m. last night to reports of a man disrupting and damaging property at a BC Hydro open house on the Site C dam project.
Hydro had been holding the open house in the banquet facilities of the restaurant to update the public on construction timelines for the $8.8-billion hydro dam on the Peace River.
The IIO says police arrived on scene and encountered a man wearing a mask outside the restaurant, and believed him to be connected to the complaint. At some point, a confrontation occurred and police shot the masked man. He was taken to hospital where he later died of his wounds, according to the IIO.
No officers or other civilians were injured, IIO spokeswoman Kellie Kilpatrick told the Alaska Highway News.
The office says it will not be commenting on any of the officers involved in the shooting, or releasing details on the identity of the dead man, or where he was shot.
Police are not saying specifically whether this was the same man escorted out of the Hydro event, and have not said what kind of mask the man was wearing. It remains unclear if the man was armed with a weapon, and what attempts, if any, he had made toward officers.
A man waiting in the parking an hour after the shooting said another man showed him a cell phone video taken of the body. He had never met the man before, and did not know his name.
"He had a video he showed me, and he zoomed in to see what mask it was. [The man who took the video] didn't know that it was called a Guy Fawkes mask," said the man.
The mask, popularized by the 2005 film V for Vendetta, has become a symbol in certain protest movements.
The man who saw the video said he did not want his name used, saying he was new to the area and that his employment prospects could be impacted. This account has not been confirmed by police.
Kilpatrick did say officers are typically sequestered in these situations, checked for their medical conditions, and are asked to write up their notes on the event.
"They're typically photographed, their tool belts are typically secured," she said.
"Then it's up to the individual police agency to decide what will happen to the officers pending the investigation."
IIO investigators will be canvassing the scene for evidence and witnesses. Kilpatrick did not have a timeline on the investigation, saying it could take months, and that several IIO investigations remain open.
Curtis Pratt was attending the open house and saw a man disrupting the event.
"He was flipping over the tables, and he walked around and started knocking the posters off, they had them on the stands and he was knocking them off. Then he went back and started tearing up the pictures and the maps," Pratt said.
"I never saw anyone escort him out [of the building.] They just ushered him out through the door there and they were in another part of the building so we never saw after that what was going on. It seemed like everything was fine."
Restaurant owner, local politicians react
Reached for comment early Friday morning, Fixx owner Aaron Schindler said he was still scraping details of the incident himself. The restaurant remains closed.
"It's an unfortunate incident," said Aaron Schindler, declining further comment.
Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead was shocked by the shooting.
“At first I couldn't believe it,” Bumstead said when reached Friday morning. “It’s [still] unbelievable to me that that can happen in our community. For me it’s just shock, sorrow and embarrassment that something like that happened [here].”
Bumstead said he believes the incident affects the reputation of our community as a clean, quiet place to live.
Peace River South MLA Bernier said he was saddened by the shooting.
"My thoughts go out to all involved," he said.
"It is tragic any time there is a loss of life, and we now must give time for the investigators to determine what led to this unfortunate circumstance."
Open house in Fort St. John also disrupted by protesters
Hydro has not yet released a statement on the shooting.
It had been holding open houses across the Peace Region over the last two weeks on its construction timelines for the project, which received the provincial green light to proceed last December. Shovels are expected to hit the ground on site preparation work any day now.
A small band of a dozen Treaty 8 First Nation members interrupted an open house in Fort St. John on July 9.
A video posted to YouTube shows local musician Garry Oker leading a drum procession. before making a short speech about a number of legal challenges in BC Supreme Court and federal court over the dam's construction.
"I just want to let you know that we still got legal cases that we need to address," Oker told the crowd.
"So, Site C, this is premature to our legal right to have a hearing in courts. We don't have whole consent of Treaty 8 people."
Oker later continued: "This is our sacred land. There's something not right here. We need an opportunity to be able to have a court hearing and after that we can be able to abide by the law. But, right now, this type of thing is not right, it doesn't feel right. It's not right to be able to push that kind of stuff on our people."