SURREY, B.C. – Ontario Provincial Police have identified a Canadian border guard shot in the neck while on the job at a crossing south of Vancouver.
Sgt. Peter Leon says the victim is Lori Bowcock, who had worked as a civilian dispatcher at the police communications centre in London, Ont. until this past spring.
Bowcock was struck by a bullet around 2 p.m. Tuesday after the suspected shooter entered Canada with Washington licence plates.
RCMP in B.C. say she remains in stable condition in hospital.
Leon said the OPP was informed of the incident and have told members who knew and worked with the woman while she was in Ontario.
“Our concern is obviously for her health and well-being. Certainly as an organization we wish her all the very best with respect to a recovery from this tragic incident and our thoughts are with her and her family as they deal with this ordeal,” he said in an interview.
“But at the same time, we do respect the fact the RCMP and (Canada Border Services Agency) have a very, very important job to do. We’re confident they will find the answers to the questions as to how this happened.”
Leon did not know Bowcock’s age. But he said she also donned a police uniform because she volunteered with the Middlesex OPP detachment and was trained to assist with various community events like parades and the fall fair.
She was working at the Douglas border crossing, commonly known as the Peace Arch crossing. A provincial traveller’s report said Highway 99 southbound, from about two kilometres north of border, was not expected to reopen until at least 4 p.m. Wednesday due to the ongoing investigation.
“The first report at the scene revealed that a male, a lone male, had shot an officer in her booth,” Cpl. Bert Paquet told reporters on Tuesday.
Paquet also said the officer was breathing when she was loaded into an air ambulance and that it appeared she’d been shot in the neck.
“We haven’t confirmed the identity of the suspect yet,” he said.
“At the instant following the shooting of the officer, the lone male had been pronounced dead at the scene from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
Sgt. Jennifer Pound of Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said in a news release the unit would take over the file and was treating it as an attempted murder investigation.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he was deeply concerned at the news.
“This event is a sobering reminder of the dangerous conditions faced daily by the men and women of our law enforcement agencies as they work to protect the safety and security of Canadians,” Toews said in a statement.
Shirley Bond, B.C.’s minister of justice and attorney general, said the RCMP will be working with their colleagues in Washington state during the investigation.
She said Premier Christy Clark and Governor Chris Gregoire have talked about the incident, are committed to a safe and peaceful border and will work with federal officials in both countries to protect border guards.
Calling Canadian border guards “an extension of our Washington family,” Gregoire in a statement pledged full co-operation during the investigation.
“This tragedy hits especially close to home and reminds us all that our public safety officers put their lives on the line every day to protect the rest of us,” she said.
Glen Pederson, a local resident, said he heard two gunshots in the afternoon but didn’t think much of the noise.
“I thought it was these guys next door, it’s a construction site. There’s a house being built here, there’s been all kinds of banging going on for days and weeks.”
Pederson said when he heard a helicopter buzzing over his house, he went outside to his front patio and then walked over to the park at the border to see what was going on.
He said he could see a white van stopped near the first booth, closest to the customs building, and surrounded by yellow police tape.
Pederson said dozens of cars were still waiting at the crossing in the late afternoon.
“There was cops there so fast it wasn’t even funny,” he said.
Kevin McAllister, assistant general manager at the Peace Portal Golf Course, which is adjacent to the crossing, said an employee and several guests reported to him that they heard shots fired.
“Two shots were fired,” he said. “We’ve heard fire, police, ambulance heading southbound on (Highway) 99, which is probably about a couple hundred yards from the 18th green. So that’s what they heard when all hell broke loose.”
McAllister said he also heard and saw a police helicopter hovering over the 10th and 11th fairways, which are the closest fairways to the highway and the border crossing.
He said the helicopters stopped about 2:40 p.m.
“Staff are coming in, talking about it,” he said.
Kelsie Carwithen, a spokeswoman with the B.C. Ambulance Service, said one air and two ground ambulances were sent to the scene.
The Peace Arch border point is the third busiest crossing between Canada and the United States.
An average of 3,500 cars pass through the crossing on a slow day, and during peak periods about 4,800 vehicles will move through the border.
During those peak periods, border delays can reach four hours on either side of the border.