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Accused shooter known to Vanderhoof RCMP, trial hears

Found "talking gibberish," Paul Nicholas Russell was taken to hospital by an RCMP officer four months before detachment was targeted with gunfire

A man now on trial for opening fire on the Vanderhoof RCMP detachment with a high-powered rifle 1 1/2 years ago was recognized by one of the arresting officers from a previous encounter that ended with the accused taken to hospital over concerns about his mental health, the court heard Tuesday.

Paul Nicholas Russell stands accused of nine charges, including counts of attempted murder with a firearm and mischief endangering life from the Nov. 25, 2021 incident that sparked an active shooter alert in the community 100 kilometres west of Prince George.

Testifying at the Prince George courthouse, Cst. Derek Bulmer recalled responding to a July 26, 2021 call from someone who was "not making much sense" and "talking gibberish."

He drove to the Elks Hall at Recreation Avenue and Fir Street, where he found Russell, who admitted to making the call using a different name.

Russell then went on to say he was seeing auras, was involved with MI6 in apparent reference to the British spy agency depicted in the James Bond movies, that he was going to go back to the Vancouver Olympics to do security and that he was a member of the Rocky Mountain Rangers.

As Bulmer worked to assess the situation, Russell's parents showed up and agreed with the officer that the accused needed to go to the hospital in Vanderhoof for observation. Although not pleased with the idea, Russell cooperated with Bulmer, putting his hands out to be cuffed and allowing himself to be guided into the officer's cruiser for the trip.

"He didn't really want to go to the hospital because he said he didn't really trust doctors, but he said he'd trust me," Bulmer said.

Once at the hospital, Bulmer stayed with Russell for a couple hours, maintaining a degree of small talk until one of the doctors took over.

Bulmer was in the detachment on the day the shots rang out, sending those inside the building ducking for cover.

Once they determined the coast appeared to be clear, officers put on body armour and armed themselves with carbine rifles. Bulmer accompanied Sgt. Kyle Ushock as they hopped into an unmarked vehicle and went on a search for the suspect vehicle, a large white pickup truck.

With the help of a civilian witness who called in the truck's licence plate number, they soon learned Russell was the registered owner and had his home address. As they headed in that direction, they saw Russell heading their way. As they drove by each other, Bulmer said they looked directly at each other before Russell, wearing a black fedora and reflector sunglasses, continued on. 

Ushock turned their cruiser around and, with the emergency lights flashing, gave chase along the length of Burrard Avenue and then west on Highway 16 before Russell turned into the parking lot of a tire shop less than a kilometre away. 

After pinning Russell's vehicle with their own so he couldn't drive any further, the two officers got out with Bulmer approaching the passenger side. When he opened the truck's door, Bulmer said he found a rifle within an arm's reach of Russell and amid boxes of ammunition. Bulmer also later seized a fedora and sunglasses and a round of ammunition he found in one of Russell's pockets during a subsequent search.

Ushock eventually pulled Russell out of the vehicle but the accused continued to keep his hands beneath him as he lay on his stomach on the ground. Bulmer said Russell remained stiff armed until he elbowed him in the side of the face to distract him and get him to release his hands for cuffing behind his back.

Earlier Tuesday, an officer who specializes in forensics determined that 15 shots of .30-calibre ammunition had been fired off, with 10 variously striking any of three RCMP vehicles, two hitting the building's brick wall and three rounds going through windows with one then going through a computer terminal at one of the desks.

The court was also taken through a series of photos showing a significant number of rounds of ammunition found inside Russell's pickup truck, both loose and in boxes, made up mostly of .30-calibre but also some .22-calibre and 12-gauge shotgun slugs. A machete was also found in the vehicle.

The trial before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Francesca Marzari continues Wednesday.