One person is dead after reports of shots fired at Rock City Centre in Nanaimo.
A heavy police presence gathered outside the Wendy’s restaurant at the plaza along the old Island highway at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, May 20. Witnesses reported hearing shots fired.
Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O’Brien confirmed one person died in the incident from apparent gunshot wounds and “several” individuals were arrested.
“We’re not sure whether we have everybody involved in custody,” said O’Brien. “It’s a very dynamic situation. We have officers at various scenes throughout the city.”
He said there is no danger to the public at this point.
The Best Western Northgate hotel was secured while officers searched for forensic evidence related to the investigation. A vehicle was seized that was associated with the individuals who were arrested.
Lee Marstein, who lives near Rock City Centre, was using her mobility scooter near the shooting scene when it happened.
“Just as I was coming around the corner I hear pop, pop, pop, pop, pop and then pop and then I see the white vehicle come screaming out of [the parking lot], didn’t even bother stopping to take a look a traffic and took off,” she said.
Marstein said she heard gun shots in the area a few days earlier and found a bullet casing nearby, which she reported to the police.
She said the vehicle that sped out of Rock City Plaza was a white SUV and it was shortly after that she saw glass on the ground from the victim’s vehicle.
“And then the RCMP started showing up,” she said. “They opened the back door of the vehicle … I’m going, oh, maybe they’re looking for gunshots in the back seat, not thinking that there was a person in there.”
Adrienne Perron, manager of the Sherwinn-Williams paint store, was working when she heard three shots.
“Then two black SUVs – full SWAT – just circled in and blocked in that car,” she said.
Perron said it seemed like only seconds after the shots were fired that police showed up.
“It happened fast,” she said. “We saw people scattering. Cars were kind of coming in to see what was going on … and then we could see that they were draping all that yellow tarp around that vehicle.”
Perron said she was shaken by the incident.
“It’s been getting pretty sketchy here. I open by myself sometimes,” she said. “We’ve got three access points to the store and there’s three people with guns running around somewhere. That freaks me out.”