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Vanderhoof shooting suspect was "confused and agitated," court told

Paul Nicholas Russell stands accused of nine charges, including counts of attempted murder with a firearm

The man suspected of opening fire on the Vanderhoof RCMP detachment 1 /12 years ago appeared not to understand why he was being arrested, the court was told Wednesday.

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.

Some 15 rounds of .30-calibre ammunition was fired at the detachment and police vehicles, with three of the bullets bursting through the building's windows and causing those inside to duck for cover. 

Responding to an active shooter alert, police from Fort St. James, Prince George and Fraser Lake sped to the scene.

B.C. Highway Patrol Staff Sgt. Jamie Baker was among the first converged on Russell's pickup truck after the accused unexpectedly turned onto the grounds of a tire shop just off Highway 16 West.

He found Russell sitting in the driver's seat staring straight ahead and gripping the steering wheel. 

When he tried to extract Russell from the cab, Baker said he "pulled as hard as I could and there was no movement at all." 

A second attempt brought Russell to the ground face first but with his hands beneath him raising a concern he could be hiding a weapon. Baker said he resorted to "distractionary strikes" to get his hands free.

Sheridan Mackenzie, then a constable in the Vanderhoof RCMP, said he helped deal with Russell. 

Asked to describe the accused's demeanour at the time, Mackenzie said he appeared "confused and agitated."

"While I was reading him his rights, he seemed confused as to why we were arresting him for attempted murder," Mackenzie testified.

Under cross examination from defence lawyer Donna Turko, Mackenzie agreed that Russell's composure amounted to "strange stuff" and went on to describe a thousand-yard stare.

"He was looking in my direction but his gaze was not at me even," Mackenzie said.

Russell was taken to the RCMP detachment in Prince George for processing later the same day.

An audio recording of his interaction with police at the detachment was presented in court in which Russell broke into bursts of expletive-filled tirade as officers worked to make him aware of his rights and get him in touch with a lawyer.

"I don't know what to say because I don't know what the f--- happened, OK," Russell yelled at one point.

Russell "took direction" as he was photographed and fingerprinted and checked for gunpowder residue but was eventually transported to hospital. Ambulance personnel had been called to the detachment and found he "performed poorly" when put through some tests.

Russell's "mental state" was going to be a key issue, Crown counsel Gregory Furmaniuk said during an opening statement when the trial began on Monday.

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