Police have charged a 40-year-old woman with attempted murder after a 54-year-old woman was held hostage at a non-profit organization in Lethbridge, Alta., on Thursday.
Courtney Louise Shaw of Lethbridge was charged with one count of attempted murder, along with multiple other counts, on Friday. She is scheduled to appear in court on July 22.
Police said four employees were working at Lethbridge Legal Guidance at approximately 1:30 p.m. Thursday when a woman entered and asked to speak to a specific lawyer.
Lethbridge Legal Guidance, located in the 400 block of Fifth Street S., provides free legal assistance, information and advocacy to individuals experiencing financial difficulties.
When she was advised that the lawyer was not available, she asked to use the washroom. After approximately 10 minutes, she exited and pointed a black, airsoft handgun at two of the employees and threatened to kill them, according to police.
Police said one employee was able to hide under a desk and call 911. The woman then produced a knife and threatened to kill the employees if they did not get the specific lawyer on the phone.
The woman then proceeded to force a 54-year-old woman into an office and close the door, after which the remaining three employees escaped, police said. Police cordoned off the area, evacuated nearby businesses and advised others to have employees shelter in place.
The police tactical team and crisis negotiators were deployed, and police said they negotiated with the subject for around an hour. But due to an "imminent threat" to the life of the hostage, the tactical team entered the building, where they say they found the subject holding a knife to herself.
The subject was taken into custody, and police seized a knife and a black airsoft handgun at the scene. She was treated on scene and later received stitches for lacerations to her hand.
The victim sustained serious injuries, police said, after being stabbed in the neck multiple times. Emergency services transported her to hospital, where she remains in stable condition.
Shaw has been charged with the following:
Taking a hostage.
Using an imitation firearm while committing an offence.
Possession of a weapon dangerous to the public.
Four counts of unlawful confinement.
Four counts of uttering threats.
Three counts of assault with a weapon.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim, her family, her colleagues, every citizen in this city, all our employees for this significant trauma that everyone experienced," said Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh in a media availability.
"There has been huge outpouring of support from the community and I'm grateful to everyone who has reached out."
'She has such a good heart'
Brad Poettcker, youth and outreach pastor at The Gate Christian Church in downtown Lethbridge, said the victim is a member of the congregation, which numbers about 80 members.
The incident took place just a couple of blocks from the church, at Lethbridge Legal Guidance, where the woman works. Members of the church reached out to the woman via Facebook, but received no response.
"Man, that was a tough evening last night," Poettcker said. "I'll be honest, it was just heartbreaking to hear that, you know, she's going through this."
He said church members are praying for her recovery.
"She has such a good heart to emphasize and to sympathize with, with the folks that, you know, she assisted ... [with] the legal counsel there," Poettcker said. "She was always very, very willing and made it known that she was there to help without judgment."
Police said the investigation is ongoing.