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IIO investigates shooting in Granisle

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. - Chris Gareau
Independent Investigations Office of B.C.
— image credit: Chris Gareau

Two people identified by neighbours and relatives as 77-year-old Shirley Williams and her son Jovan are dead after shots were fired involving police on Thursday in Granisle.

Officers were called that afternoon to a dispute between neighbours involving a handgun in the village north of Topley on Highway 188, police said. They established a perimeter around the Morrison Street home and tried to contact the people inside.

"One person exited the residence and confronted police. Shots were fired," said Staff Sgt. Rob Vermeulen, a senior media relations officer with E Division, in an online statement. "The second person exited the residence, confronted police and shots were fired."

Paramedics who were already there rushed to the victims, but both were dead. No officer was hurt.

The Independent Investigations Office, which handles incidents of serious harm or death involving police in B.C., arrived Friday and were on scene just before 2:30 p.m. It has not provided any further information.

Lake Babine Nation mental health workers were near the scene Friday to direct mourners who had organized a vigil on Facebook, a bit farther from the scene to avoid confrontation with police.

Granisle fire chief and councillor Jim O'Farrell lives a couple houses down from where the shooting occurred. He said he heard three distinct volleys of shots, with the last only being one or two shots, on Thursday after getting home to see police vehicles and six to eight officers armed with long guns surrounding his neighbour's home.

O'Farrell, who waited with paramedics to help before the shooting began, said there were unaddressed mental health issues with the mother and son. He said things only got worse when Jovan returned home last year.

Confrontations with a neighbour across the street escalated to the point where police were called Thursday, according to O'Farrell. He also said he himself had avoided Jovan after an earlier confrontation when Jovan accused O'Farrell of "staring" at him as he walked down the street and Jovan drove by.

O'Farrell added that Granisle was a small, quiet town not used to violence, where a dog escaped from a yard or teenagers breaking in for cigarettes and booze were usually the biggest concerns.

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