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First Peoples House at UVic closes after staff threatened with a knife

Police and campus security responded and a suspect was arrested.

The University of Victoria closed its First Peoples House Tuesday after a man entered the building and threatened staff with a knife.

A man was arrested near the building around noon after a heavy police response. Multiple responding officers were photographed with long-barrelled guns.

Saanich police said officers located the suspect outside the First Peoples House with the help of UVic staff and there were no physical injuries in the incident.

The suspect will be held in custody and brought before a judge as soon as possible, police said in a statement.

Police said they will be requesting that the suspect be barred from the campus.

The First Peoples House, a social, cultural and academic centre for Indigenous students, is a short distance from a pro-Palestinian encampment that was established on the university campus on May 1.

The suspect is believed to have been camping on the campus, but is not believed to be part of the pro-Palestinian encampment, police said.

Eyewitnesses said the man did not resist arrest.

A masked protester who did not give his name said the person who was arrested was not the man who had previously assaulted protesters on campus.

He described the man arrested Tuesday as “someone who was in crisis and expressing generalized angst.”

The man had asked to enter the encampment on Monday night, the protester said, and subsequently decided to pitch a tent nearby.

Campus security and police attended his campsite that night, he said.

UVic nursing professor Damien Contandriopoulos said about 40 police officers were on campus on Tuesday.

Contandriopoulos said at least three faculty members were present when a senior Saanich police officer and UVic’s head of security told protesters the arrest was unrelated to the encampment.

Contandriopoulos said the intensity of the police response was puzzling given that there was “absolutely nothing” when another person was assaulting people on campus last week.

Saanich police said they opened an assault investigation after people involved in the camp reported being punched and attacked by a man in three separate incidents last week.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

mjlo@timescolonist.com