Merritt mayor says unfolding police incident related to spate of shootings earlier this week

The city of Merritt, B.C., on Feb. 16, 2022. RCMP 'strongly believe' another round of gunfire Friday morning is linked to Tuesday's shootings. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
The city of Merritt, B.C., on Feb. 16, 2022. RCMP 'strongly believe' another round of gunfire Friday morning is linked to Tuesday's shootings. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The mayor of Merritt, the small B.C. town rocked by a series of shootings this week, says police officers closed a section of a main street Friday afternoon.

Michael Goetz says a number of police vehicles converged on the 1700-block of Nicola Avenue, near the intersection of Cleasby Street, around 3:30 p.m. PT and were there for several hours. He said an RCMP officer told him the activity was related to the shootings this week.

Goetz says he could see at least two police cars and what he describes as a large, armoured pickup truck. As of 5:30 p.m., he says a turboprop plane had been flying overhead for several hours.

"There is a lot of residential area there," Goetz said, adding some have been told to stay indoors and to be prepared to leave their homes.

CBC attempted to contact the RCMP multiple times by phone and email Friday afternoon for more information about the situation but has not heard back.

'We've just kind of sealed ourselves in'

Footage submitted to CBC showed a number of police officers and vehicles in the area Friday afternoon. Officers were seen with rifles and wearing helmets. Black SUVs were parked in the vicinity with red and blue flashing lights.

Anastasia and Wes Cash live a block off of Nicola. At around 3 p.m., officers knocked on their door and said they needed to use their backyard to scope out a house on Nicola.

Officers spent the afternoon peering out their backyard perched on ladders.

"Obviously they can't divulge any information to us, but they told us to stay safe, we were OK in the house if we didn't come out," Wes said. "So we've just kind of sealed ourselves in and let this all transpire, right?"

Wes said he heard loud bangs but couldn't tell what they were.

They both described the situation as an inconvenience but were happy to help the police do their jobs.

Anastasia said they certainly weren't scared.

"I lived in L.A. and [Wes] was from New York, so it's not a big surprise for us," Anastasia said.

Spate of shootings

Mounties said earlier Friday they were investigating more gunfire in Merritt which they "strongly believe'' is linked to a spate of shots fired earlier this week.

No injuries have been reported in any of the shootings, and no suspects have been arrested, but police said they believe all the gunfire has been targeted.

Mounties said a caller reported shots fired Friday morning in the centre of the city, which is located in the Nicola Valley, as well as a distinctive grey pickup truck with a maroon box racing away from the scene.

A truck with the same description, which police believe was stolen early Friday for the purpose of the shooting, was found on fire soon after.

On Tuesday, they said they were investigating "multiple shootings'' that day that they believed to be connected, but they did not believe there was any further risk to the public.

Goetz has said RCMP told him that roughly 100 rounds were fired at three different locations Tuesday, including the Coldwater reserve and along Mamet Lake Road.

Sgt. Josh Roda said in a statement that investigators are canvassing the area of the latest gunplay for witnesses and surveillance video.

"We strongly believe that this incident is associated to the ongoing investigation to the shooting that occurred earlier this week,'' the statement read.

"Fortunately, there have been no reports of injuries from the shooting, and investigators are continuing their tireless efforts to identify and apprehend the suspects in these brazen events.''