Retired city worker charged with murder after shootings in Penticton

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Retired city worker charged with murder after shootings in Penticton

by - 4 min read

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A retired city worker is facing multiple murder charges after a shooting spree that left four people dead across the city of Penticton, B.C., on Monday.

John Brittain, 68, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder on Tuesday.

He was led into the provincial courthouse in handcuffs through the back door for his first court appearance at 10:20 a.m. PT and remains in custody.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning, Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki said Brittain worked for the City of Penticton’s engineering department for several years until his retirement in 2016.

Two women and two men in their 60s and 70s were killed in three different locations in the city during an hour-long shooting spree that began around 10:30 a.m. PT Monday, and ended with Brittain turning himself in at the front desk of the local RCMP detachment.

Mounties said the victims all knew each other and their alleged killer. Investigators believe the shootings were targeted but police said they were still working to determine a possible motive for the killings.

On Tuesday, RCMPSupt. Ted De Jager said Mounties won’t be releasing the victims’ identities or details on how they knew Brittain, as officers don’t believe it will further the investigation.

“I can’t speak to the actual relationship and, be mindful, this matter is before the courts,” De Jager said during the news conference.

Police forensic officers investigate outside a home near Lakeview Street And Heales Avenue in Penticton, B.C. on Monday. A suspect has now been charged in connection with the shooting that left four dead. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

On Monday, police were first called to the area of Lakeview Street and Heales Avenue, a residential neighbourhood blocks from Okanagan Lake, after locals reported that a man had been shot.

As officers were en route, they received a second call that another person had been shot further south in the city. The public was asked to avoid the downtown area entirely, or stay indoors if they were already there.

De Jager said a man matching the suspect’s description turned himself in at the RCMP detachment on Main Street at 11:27 a.m. PT.

Police forensic officers investigate near Lakeview Street and Heales Avenue on Monday evening. One man was found dead outside a home after the shooting earlier in the day. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

Investigators later found four bodies in three places. One man was found dead in front of a home on Heales Avenue, while the second man and both women were found in a suburban area around Cornwall Drive.

Paramedics responded, but all four people died.

Danny Herron and his son, Hayden, live near the Lakeview Street crime scene. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Mayor Vassilaki said he knew Brittain while they were both working for the city — Vassilaki as a councillor, Brittain in development services.

The mayor said he was “saddened” to learn Brittain had been accused of murder.

“He was a gentleman, he did his job well, he was very in favour of what our community was doing, was always involved in community matters — him and his wife,” he continued.

The mayor shook his head when asked if Brittain was known to have a temper.

“Nothing like that at all. Very gentle man,” he said.

Neighbours shaken

Penticton sits between the southern bank of Okanagan Lake and the northern shore of Skaha Lake, with a population of 30,000 that swells with tourists during its hot, dry summers.

Shelly Halvorson, who was at work near Lakeview Street during the incident, said she was shaken up after hearing “four or five pops” and seeing a man lying across the front lawn of a home.

“This is a little too close. I’ve never experienced this,” she said during a phone call Monday. “I’m not comfortable at all.”

Danny Herron, who lives near the Lakeview Street crime scene, said it was a frightening hour.

“It’s an eye-opener for everybody,” he said. “When it continued on, I thought, ‘What’s going on here? Is this guy on the loose? Is he shooting randomly?’ You just don’t know.”

De Jager said RCMP are confident the accused acted alone and that the community isn’t in further danger, but he said the emotional impact will be lasting.

“I recognize these heartbreaking events have a deep impact on the community and will continue to do so for some time,” De Jager said. 

This story originally appeared on CBC

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