An RCMP officer is dead and two other Mounties are seriously injured after a confrontation in Coquitlam.
Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, the commanding officer for B.C. RCMP, said 51-year-old Const. Rick O’Brien was shot and killed. He had joined the RCMP in 2016.
The City of Pitt Meadows confirmed in a statement that O’Brien worked for the local detachment.
“We have become aware that Ridge Meadows RCMP has lost an officer in the line of duty today, with one other officer injured,” said a statement from the city.
“Our heartfelt condolences go to the families of the victims as well as our local officers. The city is committed to providing support in any way we can and will be lowering flags to half mast at all city buildings.”
RCMP Staff Sgt. Kris Clark said the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. are investigating, as a suspect was also seriously injured in the incident.
Clark said police were doing a search with a warrant in a building at Pinetree Way and Glen Drive Friday morning when a man and the officers were involved in a confrontation.
Several officers were taken to hospital. O’Brien, who had been shot, died of his injuries at the scene.
At a news conference later in the day, Ridge Meadows Supt. Wendy Mehat said the two injured officers are expected to survive.
“The loss of Rick will be felt deeply by his family, his colleagues and the community of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows and Coquitlam and across the country. Rick’s contribution to his work and his fellow team members … was immeasurable,” said Mehat.
“Rick loved visiting schools and helping students, doing presentations, supporting our detachment food drives and sport events …
“He was a highly decorated police officer and he was recognized for his bravery. He was truly exceptional, a hard worker and a good human being. His death is senseless and heartbreaking. He simply went to work today and was killed keeping his community safe.”
Carley Hodges and Tracy Joseph were on their way to their car after an exam at their Coquitlam college when they found themselves in the middle of a real-time police drama.
“It was kind of scary. There were a bunch of (police) cars and ambulances and more just kept coming and coming and coming and their tires were screeching,” said Joseph.
“We saw one officer, he had a tourniquet on his leg and it was bleeding and another officer was helping him walk,” she said.
They saw another officer having his chest compressed by emergency responders as he was wheeled toward an ambulance in front of the building at 3007 Glen Dr., a residential highrise called the Evergreen with commercial and retail outlets including a pharmacy and daycare on the ground floor.
They watched from metres away as officers escorted a man wearing only boxers with blood on him from the building.
The two women said what first attracted their attention when they passed through the intersection, not far from Coquitlam City Hall and the RCMP detachment, was an officer dressed in black carrying a rifle.
Coquitlam RCMP warned late Friday morning that Glen Drive was closed between Pinetree Way and High Street, only describing it initially as a “police incident.”
B.C. Premier David Eby confirmed a “very serious, critical incident” took place involving the RCMP in Coquitlam.
Speaking in Vancouver at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference, Eby said there’s no further risk to public safety and more information will be released by the RCMP.
The building manager of a condo complex in the 3000-block of Glen Drive said he was working in his office when a resident contacted him to say that police had swarmed the area. He said police, some carrying “high-powered guns,” later instructed him to notify all residents in the building to stay put and away from the windows.
“They are shocked,” said the building manager, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons. “They are scared. Most residents are seniors.”
“My heart goes out to RCMP officers across the country, to peace officers,” said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart as he stood at the corner Friday afternoon, as police cruisers including some from surrounding jurisdictions gathered with their lights flashing.
“I know that all of their hearts are bleeding right now.”
Officers, some in uniform and wearing bulletproof vests but most in street clothes, stood chatting in groups in the middle of the closed intersection behind yellow police tape. Some hugged one another. Officers on motorbikes also joined the group.
Elenore Sturko, the B.C. United MLA for Surrey South and a former RCMP officer, said she’s devastated that an officer has died in the line of service.
“I just look at my own badge and I just think like, ‘Wow, here we have someone who has paid the ultimate sacrifice.’ It’s just absolutely devastating to know that this unfolded today.”
Yan Wang manages a dental office near the area that is closed off, and says police asked them to shut the office and stay away for the rest of the day and tomorrow.
O’Brien worked for the Pitt Meadows RCMP detachment in the uniformed community response unit.
That unit focuses on community-based policing and outreach to youth, unhoused people and First Nations, as well as working with general duty officers.
He and six other Mounties disrupted a violent home invasion during his first few months of duty, earning O’Brien a commissioner’s commendation and medal of valour.
Before joining the RCMP, O’Brien worked as an education assistant, mental health and youth worker.
In an online biography, he credited that work for giving him “patience, understanding, desire and work ethic to do his job as a police officer effectively.”
According to the bio posted for the Gratitude and Appreciation Summit, where he was recently a speaker, O’Brien and his wife, Nicole, have six children.
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— With files from Katie DeRosa, Kim Bolan and The Canadian Press