A shooting at a sawmill in British Columbia Wednesday morning left two people dead and two in the hospital. A former employee of the sawmill was arrested without resistance and police found a shotgun at the scene that they believe was used in the shooting. But who was the shooter, and why did he do it? Those questions remained a mystery later Wednesday.
The shooting unfolded at about 7 am on Vancouver Island, at a Western Forest Products sawmill in the city of Nanaimo. The gunman began shooting in the parking lot of the sawmill, then entered the building. Police did not say where the victims were shot, or how many employees were inside the sawmill at the time.
About 75 people work at the plant. The names of the victims have not been released. Nor has the name of the suspect, though police say he is 47 years old and a resident of Nanaimo, a city of about 90,000 people.
But a trucker who makes regular runs to the sawmill said the building was mostly empty at the time of the shooting.
“There was hardly nobody here then,” Al Thompson told CBC News. “No employees had started or anything. I just can’t believe it. I mean, I know everybody in that damn mill.”
One of the two surviving victims of the shooting was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Victoria, listed in critical condition. The second was in stable condition at a local Nanaimo hospital.
“We’re a local BC company and it’s very tragic,” said Western Forest Products CEO Don Demens. “Clearly we’ve had a terrible tragedy at our sawmill here in Nanaimo today. The safety and security of our employees is paramount.”
The company has stopped operations at the sawmill, and its other job sites in Vancouver Island, to display respect for the shooting victims.
“This kind of tragedy is almost unknown in British Columbia,” said BC Premier Christy Clark. “Most of us here today cannot imagine what the victims and their families must be going through. They should know they are not alone. The people of British Columbia are standing with them.”
The head of the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police unit also said that a shooting of this type was uncommon in the region.
“The families and mill employees will now have to cope with the tragedy that unfolded here today, as does the community of Nanaimo,” said RCMP Supt. Mark Fisher. “It’s going to be a challenge. But as detachment commander and a long-time resident of Vancouver Island, I can confirm that this type of extreme violence is extremely rare.”
Fisher declined to speculate on a motive behind the tragic sawmill shooting.