Accused charged with attempted murder of RCMP officer in 'horrendous' Vanderhoof shooting

·3 min read
RCMP arrest a suspect on Nov. 25, 2021, after an active shooter situation in Vanderhoof, B.C., west of Prince George.  (Submitted - image credit)
RCMP arrest a suspect on Nov. 25, 2021, after an active shooter situation in Vanderhoof, B.C., west of Prince George. (Submitted - image credit)

A B.C. man made a court appearance Friday after being charged with attempting to kill an RCMP officer in a wild shooting at the police detachment in the northern community of Vanderhoof.

Paul Nicholas Russell made an appearance by telephone in Williams Lake provincial court after being charged with one count of attempting to murder a peace officer with a firearm.

His appearance came even as RCMP sought more information from the public about the shooting, which resulted in a region-wide emergency alert.

In a statement released Friday, B.C. RCMP North District Chief Supt. Warren Brown said the shooting was believed to be a "targeted attack on the RCMP."

"Yesterday was nothing less than the most horrendous occurrence that can happen for police officers, our support staff and our community," Brown said in the statement.

"An incident like this is really something that happens rarely and regardless of how well we are trained, with the serious level of threat and fluid mayhem, it is remarkable to believe no one was hurt and the suspect was arrested safely. Really the best possible outcome."

'Employees deafened by gunfire'

The charge against Russell — sworn Thursday — names an RCMP officer as the alleged victim.

Russell spoke only briefly at the hearing, saying he could hear his lawyer, before Crown counsel Tyler Bauman noted the single count of attempted murder.

"This is the shooting that made some headlines in Vanderhoof yesterday," Bauman told the judge.

Officers responded to reports Thursday of a shooter with a long gun targeting the RCMP detachment on Columbia Street and driving around the area just after 12:15 p.m. PT.

Police issued an emergency text alert to the community west of Prince George, B.C., asking everyone in the area to stay inside and lock their doors.

Andrew Kurjata/CBC
Andrew Kurjata/CBC

According to the statement, more than a dozen employees were working in the office at the time of the incident.

"I am told that bullets from a rifle smashed through exterior windows striking walls, equipment and flying past work stations where police officers and office staff sat," Brown said.

"Terrible accounts where our employees were deafened by gunfire, could smell burning gunpowder and threw themselves on the ground to avoid being shot."

Police said the Vanderhoof RCMP detachment would remain closed to the public pending the end of a forensic examination, but there would be no disruption in service.

Investigators are seeking the public's assistance and made a specific request for any dashcam or cellphone video of the shooting.

The incident led to the first-ever use of the province's police emergency alert.

Brown acknowledged the role the public played in helping to apprehend a suspect.

"As this incident was unfolding, citizens of Vanderhoof provided real time up-to-date witness accounts through 911," Brown said in the statement.

"This included suspect and vehicle descriptions, locations and other observations that were integral pieces of information that led to the capture of the suspect."

Russell's next appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday.

The charge against Russell has not been proven in court.