Police in Kingston, Ont., say an incident in which several people were injured when a vehicle struck a tent in the parking lot of a local community health centre Wednesday evening was not a targeted attack.
Kingston Police said a 36-year-old has been taken into custody and is charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, criminal negligence cause bodily harm, and leaving the scene of an accident
cause bodily harm.
In a news release Thursday afternoon, police said the incident happened around 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Integrated Care Hub at 661 Montreal St., a drop-in centre that provides drug consumption and treatment services, meals, showers and connections to other services for people in the community who often face barriers to care, including the homeless.
A driver drove a vehicle "at a low rate of speed" into a tent, striking two people inside, police said.
"A crowd subsequently formed around the vehicle and members of the crowd confronted the driver," the release reads.
"In an attempt to flee the crowd, the driver drove in a dangerous manner through the crowd striking two other individuals."
The force said three people were taken to hospital, but they did not sustain life-threatening injuries.
The driver then drove to the Kingston police headquarters and was arrested there. They are scheduled to attend a bail hearing in court Thursday.
A statement issued on behalf of the hub's consortium of partners said they are "shocked and horrified at the news of what took place on the ICH property.
Gilles Charette, executive director of Trellis HIV & Community Care, told CBC the vehicle struck a tent where people who had COVID-19 were isolating.
'Our hearts are with those who are injured'
Charette said the three people taken to hospital were released Thursday morning.
"We're piecing things together with police right now," he said. "It was a horrifying scene."
Charette said the hub's community and staff quickly came together Wednesday night.
"This is a community who experience a lot of trauma, and sadly used to being marginalized.... They rallied together immediately to look after one another."
Charette said many details remain unclear, such as how the driver reached the tents and whether they had a specific motivation is wait. He said he's waiting for police to complete their investigation.
"Our hearts are with those who are injured, and with the staff and people we serve who have been witness to this horrific scene," reads an earlier statement attributed to Charette, as well as Carol Ravnaas and Betty Jo Dean, co-executive directors of Addiction and Mental Health Services Kingston & Frontenac, Lennox & Addington.
Ravnaas said what happened on Wednesday highlights how the homeless community faces added challenges during the ongoing pandemic.
"If you don't have a place to live, it's very hard to isolate," she said, adding using tents to isolate means being vulnerable to weather and locations that are not secure.
Ravnaas said there's much more work to be done to address the issue of homelessness that Kingston and "almost every community in Ontario faces."
It's not the first time the hub has seen violence. David Jaeger Hodgson, 51, was stabbed to death at the hub in January, and a 48-year-old was charged with first-degree murder.