Three men are in custody and facing firearms and hostage taking charges after RCMP said a person was kidnapped Friday in Merritt, B.C.
Police say the kidnapping is related to two shootings earlier this week in the community. No injuries have been reported in any of the shootings, but police said they believe all the gunfire has been targeted.
“There has been a brazen disregard for public safety recently in our community, and having these individuals off our streets will hopefully restore a sense of security back to the community,” said Sgt. Josh Roda in a statement on Saturday.
RCMP say an emergency response team helped clear a home to search for suspects. The suspects tried to flee but were arrested, while the victim of the kidnapping was found uninjured, according to Mounties.
Known to police
Braeden Shane Drake, Mark Ethan Giesbrecht, and William Joseph Lavoie have been charged by indictment for hostage taking with a firearm, and entering a dwelling house without lawful excuse to commit an indictable offence, according to the statement.
Police say the three remain in custody. Court records show their next appearance, in Kamloops, is scheduled for Monday.
Roda, who is the Merritt detachment commander, said on Sunday that the three men arrested and charged are known to police.
“What we are seeing in Merritt, currently, is that we have really well-known offenders committing very violent offences. They’re being released on bail by our court system and they keep re-offending and it’s causing huge concerns for us for community safety.”
Roda’s comments were made same day B.C. Premier David Eby announced new public safety measures which include response teams in place by next year to deal with what some people have called a “catch-and-release” model for alleged repeat offenders.
‘This could happen anywhere’
Merritt’s Mayor Michael Goetz has spent his week getting updates from RCMP regarding the shootings in the community of around 7,000 people.
“It’s very baffling, I have to be honest with you,” he said on Saturday.
He says he is surprised to see the violence in his community, but also not shocked that what he believes to be targeted incidents related to the drug trade have popped up in his town.
“I think any community in Western Canada or this province should be aware that this could happen at any moment at any time with just the way the drug trade and everything is going. I think this could happen anywhere.”
On Friday, he said a number of police vehicles converged in an area of the town. Other community members shared footage with CBC News that appeared to show officers with rifles and wearing helmets. Officers reportedly stayed for hours.
Goetz said some members of his community were told by police to stay indoors and even be prepared to be evacuated from their homes.
The Friday morning shootings came after multiple reports of gunfire on Tuesday in various locations.
Goetz has said RCMP told him that roughly 100 rounds were fired at three different locations Tuesday, including the Coldwater reserve and along Mamet Lake Road.
‘Be vigilant, be careful’
Mounties have not yet provided a reason or motive for the violence and kidnapping.
Goetz is commending the RCMP for its work throughout the week. He asked community members to report anything suspicious to police.
“Be vigilant, be careful and we’ll get through this, it’s just a really strange time,” he said.
Police are still seeking tips related to the shootings.
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