SLOCAN CITY, B.C. – The subject of a police manhunt in southern British Columbia after an exchange of gunfire in the tiny village of Slocan last week is dead and there is no longer any danger to the community, RCMP said late Monday.
Police said they discovered Peter DeGroot, 45, Monday afternoon in the vicinity of the village in the West Kootenay region, but they refused to disclose whether further shots were fired.
Chief Superintendent Frank Smart said at 1:20 p.m., two members of the RCMP’s emergency response team were near a gravel pit conducting a search of a cabin when they found the man.
“Upon entering the cabin there was an interaction between the subject of the ongoing search and the two ERT members,” Smart said in a statement at the RCMP’s regional headquarters Monday night. “We can confirm the suspect is now deceased.”
Residents, who had endured a village-wide lockdown after the initial incident, reported earlier Monday the town’s mood had relaxed and guests had arrived from out of town to celebrate Thanksgiving. Upon learning of the outcome, they once again felt the severity of the situation.
“I’m shocked beyond belief,” said Antonia Crossley, owner of the Harold Street Cafe. “I feel for the family. It’s really, really sad, regardless of what happened. A loss is a loss.
“I was hoping that if they ever find him that he would come in peacefully. Somebody always belongs to somebody.”
A woman who answered the phone at the local market gasped and simply said “that’s amazing” when she heard the news.
B.C.’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, has been called to the scene, as it is any time someone is killed or severely injured as a result of police involvement. Few details of the events leading to DeGroot’s death could be released to avoid compromising the watchdog’s investigation, Smart said.
Police were removing all roadblocks and other restrictions to the community, and residents were no longer in danger, he added. Police were helping members of DeGroot’s family, as well as the two officers involved in Monday’s incident, Smart said.
The manhunt was launched on Thursday after police were called over a dispute between two people. They say they were shot at with a rifle, and there was an exchange of gunfire.
DeGroot fled into the woods, triggering an influx of dozens of officers, including helicopters and search dogs.
Police initially urged residents to stay indoors, while police escorted children from a local school to their parents.
Over the weekend, Mounties used a news release and Twitter to make a direct appeal to DeGroot to contact them, while residents said messages were also delivered over loudspeakers.
“Peter, come in, so we can talk,” RCMP tweeted on Sunday.
Neighbours reported DeGroot had fallen on hard times and was scared about being evicted from his modest property. They said he kept to himself, and was usually only seen tending a rag-tag bunch of farm animals.
Resident Mimi Gillis was queried by police in their search, and said she mostly felt they were doing a good job.
“But we didn’t need armoured tanks – trucks like a Brink’s truck, only more beefed up,” she said. “It was overkill. It was good to have all the undercover cops, the helicopters and the tracking dogs and the infrared and men up the mountain, going through the mountain like (with) a fine-tooth comb.”
Tom Knott, who owns the Slocan Village Market, said earlier Monday that the community viewed DeGroot as “a worried individual.”
“He’s not a bad man, he comes in mostly to buy feed for his animals,” Knott said in an interview before police announced DeGroot was dead.
He added that DeGroot often used his store’s telephone, refusing to get a phone card or debit card because he said he didn’t want to be “tracked.”