Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Border Service agents go car to car interviewing witnesses after a female border guard was shot Tuesday afternoon. All lanes at the Douglas Crossing into Canada were closed indefinitely after the incident. (Photo by Brandy Kiger)
A Canadian border guard was shot Tuesday afternoon at the Douglas border crossing. The man who shot her has been confirmed dead.
The officer, who has been identified by media sources as Lori Bowcock, was targeted by the gunman, union officials said.
“I can confirm that there were in fact two shots fired. The first directed at our member and the second 10 to 15 seconds later was the self-inflicted gunshot,” said Jason McMichael, the first national vice-president of the Customs and Immigration Union, in an email to The Huffington Post B.C.
Bowcock has worked as a border officer for less than a year.
Bowcock was airlifted to New Westminster’s Royal Columbian Hospital to receive treatment. She was still breathing when transported and received surgery upon arrival. She is now in stable condition.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has worked with Bowcock’s family to get them to Vancouver, a media relations officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Patrol said, and the CBSA president came to Vancouver to meet with with the officer, her family and CBSA staff.
At around 2 p.m. Tuesday, the Surrey RCMP responded to a 911 call from a witness at the Douglas border crossing where gunshots were fired. Eyewitness reports suggest that a lone male in a white Ford Econovan with Washington plates registered in Bremerton was the gunman. RCMP are investigating the identity of the man. He was declared dead at the scene.
“We’re still talking to witnesses to confirm exactly what events took place and the sequence of events that led to the unfolding of the incident,” Paquet said.
As of Wednesday morning, the investigation had been turned over to the Integrated Homicide Investigation team, but RCMP will still lead the case.
The van is considered physical evidence and will be taken to the RCMP’s forensic examination site. It is unknown whether the suspect is the registered owner of the vehicle.
With helicopters circling the area, cars remained backed up for several hours at the northbound crossing after the incident Tuesday. Drivers were not being told what had happened, but many had been apprised of the situation through news reports via their cellphones. Cars that were in the vicinity when the incident happened are being considered part of the investigation, and CBSA agents were taking down license plates and birthdates before releasing drivers to cross the border.
Brian White, a Delta resident who had crossed the border for gas and a bottle of wine, witnessed the event. He said he heard a “pop” and then noticed border patrol agents swarming the female guard’s booth. “One girl was screaming,” he said, “and then they just closed everything down.”
White was in the NEXUS lane at the opposite end from where the incident occurred.
“There were around eight to 12 [border guards] that responded,” he said. “It was a quick response. I’m glad they have their sidearms now.”
All lanes of Interstate 5 to the Peace Arch border crossing remain closed through Wednesday and drivers are being directed to the SR 543 crossing.
“We want to be sure that this investigation is going to be thorough. We’ll leave no rocks unturned to find out exactly what took place,” Paquet said. “It is something that hits very close to heart. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officer and the family of the officer.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire issued a statement Tuesday evening regarding the shooting.
“On behalf of all Washingtonians, Mike and I send our thoughts and prayers to the border patrol officer shot earlier today at the Blaine border crossing. Working closely together with British Columbia to protect our border, I consider Canadian officers an extension of our Washington family. 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...[we] have pledged our full cooperation and help as the investigation moves forward.”