HALIFAX – Two people have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with an alleged plot to attack a public place in Halifax on Valentine’s Day that police claim could have resulted in mass killings.
A third person, a 17-year-old boy from the Halifax area, has been released without being charged but police said he remains under investigation.
Police said Saturday that charges have been laid against 23-year-old Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath of Geneva, Ill., and 20-year-old Randall Steven Shepherd of Halifax. The two suspects are scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court on Tuesday to face the allegations.
A fourth suspect, a 19-year-old man, was found dead by police early Friday morning in the Halifax suburb of Timberlea.
Police arrested three people after getting an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip on Thursday morning from a Canadian source.
Halifax Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais said the Halifax Shopping Centre was to be the target of the alleged plot.
“This is a reminder that this type of incident can happen anywhere,” he said in a statement. “Recognizing our citizens may be anxious in the wake of this news, we have additional high visibility patrols in and around the city. We encourage people to go about their daily lives.”
RCMP Asst. Commissioner Brian Brennan said three long-barrelled rifles have been seized from the home in Timberlea where the man was found dead, but he would not elaborate on the types of guns.
Earlier Saturday, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the alleged plot was not linked to terrorism.
“What I can tell you is that this appeared to be a group of murderous misfits that were coming here or were living here and prepared to wreak havoc and mayhem on our community,” he told a news conference.
“Make no mistake about it, there could have been a real tragedy and it would have marked our city and our province forever.”
Brennan says the man who was found dead intended to go to a public place with a woman and open fire on citizens before killing themselves on Valentine’s Day.
Neither Brennan or Blais would comment on a possible motive.
“This group of individuals we would not define as a terrorist group,” said Brennan. “They were four individuals that had a friendship. Their friendship is not based on culture or ideology. They were four individuals who formed a friendship and decided to plan and commit a heinous crime.”
Brennan has refused to elaborate on the circumstances surrounding the man found dead in Timberlea, saying the issue has been referred to the province’s Serious Incident Response Team, which reviews all serious incidents involving police in the province. A statement from the Serious Incident Response Team, known as SIRT, said police found the man dead when they entered the residence.
A police official, who spoke anonymously because the official was not authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press the 19-year-old male shot himself to death after police surrounded his parent’s home at around one a.m. Friday. The official said after police were tipped off about the plot they surrounded his home. Police saw his parents leave the house and called the man. As the man told police that he didn’t have any guns and he was on his way out of the house he shot himself, the official said.
Brennan said the 20-year-old man and 23-year-old woman were arrested around 2 a.m. at the Halifax airport. He said the woman was arriving on a plane and the man was there to meet her.
A neighbour of the young man who was found dead said he didn’t mix with others in the neighbourhood in recent years.
“He was one of those people who kept to himself, not a people person,” said Steven Greenwood, 19.
His mother, Cindy Greenwood, 50, said there was a couple living in the house but she couldn’t recall meeting the younger man.
“It’s a little scary to know this is just the next house down,” said Greenwood, who woke up early Friday morning to the sight of police officers carrying guns outside her house.
“I just found out this morning what the plan was. … That’s scary.”
A man in the house where the body was found came outside and asked reporters to leave, saying he had just lost his son.
Another resident said the family has lived in the neighbourhood for many years and the young man who died had attended the local school.
Greenwood said she felt badly for the family on her street.
“I can’t imagine what the parents are going through,” she added.
“They are going through turmoil as well.”