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Vanderhoof shooting suspect overheard admitting to act

Officer who took custody of Paul Nicholas Russell heard him say he was "p----d off with the RCMP" and drove to the Vanderhoof detachment to shoot at police vehicles

A police officer assigned to keep an eye on the man suspected of opening fire on the Vanderhoof RCMP detachment told the court Thursday that he overheard the accused admitting to carrying out the act.

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 in the community 100 kilometres west of Prince George.

Prince George RCMP Cst. Logan Pike was assigned with transporting Russell to the detachment in Prince George for booking and to let him get in contact with a lawyer. Pike later stayed with the accused when he was taken to University Hospital of Northern B.C. for assessment of what turned out to be a fracture near one of his eyes, apparently suffered when police struggled to get control of his hands and resorted to "distractionary strikes" to get him to comply.

Following a CT scan, Russell was taken to a bay in the emergency room where Pike said he kept his distance to provide privacy while also staying close enough in case trouble broke out. 

Concern over Russell's mental state prompted a psychiatrist to check on Russell while in the bay. Pike said that was when he heard Russell telling the doctor that he was "p----d off with the RCMP, he did drive to the RCMP parking lot to shoot at the police cars and that he was driving a Ford F-250 Super Duty."

Pike said he immediately wrote the comment down in his notebook. 

Under cross examination from defence lawyer Donna Turko, Pike said the emergency room consists of curtained-off bays and he was standing 20-25 feet away from the one Russell was occupying but made the comment in a "higher tone of voice."

Pike had also made audio recordings of the interaction between Russell and police on the trip to Prince George and at the detachment and while being transported to hospital. Between them and testimony from Pike himself, they suggested a man who, in Turko's phrase was "not well thinking."

For much of the trip to Prince George, Russell was heard mumbling to himself with an occasional outburst of expletives although he did make what Pike thought were threatening comments about holding a "pig roast" and warning officers to be wary of a "good old-fashioned lynching" as his voice rose.

Pike described Russell's demeanour as "quite elevated."

"He had some highs and lows but was generally agitated and upset," Pike said.

But once at the detachment, Pike said Russell followed directions and at times was cooperative and "quite placid."

However, Russell also sounded lost and disoriented. He repeatedly asked police where he was and at one point, referred to himself as "Yeti" saying "Yeti do nothing wrong, Yeti confused," Pike testified.

"He was talking to himself, it was not like he was talking to someone else," Pike said.

In one of the recordings, Russell is heard making reference to "me auntie" and "travel through time" before calling out for Yoda, of Star Wars fame.

""Hey, Yoda. Yoda! Yoda....May the force be with you," Russell is heard saying.

A forensics specialist determined that some 15 rounds were fired off. Most of them struck RCMP vehicles or the brick exterior of the detachment but three of the bullets breached the building's windows during the midday attack. 

RCMP officers and civilian employees who were inside ducked for cover and while none were injured one bullet did pass through a computer monitor at an unoccupied desk and a shot missed the detachment's commanding officer's head by about a foot, the court has heard.

An active shooter alert was soon issued, sparking a lock down of nearby schools and businesses while police from Prince George, Fort St. James and Fraser Lake converged on the scene.

Russell led police on a chase along Burrard Avenue, the main thoroughfare through Vanderhoof, all the while staying largely within the posted speed limit as he rammed an RCMP police car before turning west onto Highway 16 then unexpectedly turning onto the site of a large tire shop less than a kilometre away. 

Police found a rifle, a magazine and a fair amount of ammunition, mostly 30-calibre along with a fedora and reflector sunglasses in the pickup truck, the court has heard. Two civilian witnesses, meanwhile, testified seeing a man wearing a ball cap driving away from the detachment shortly after the shots rang out.




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