Slocan search for suspect comes to a tragic end

Armed suspect Peter DeGroot is dead after an "interaction" with an emergency response team in a cabin near Slocan on Oct. 13.

  • Oct. 16, 2014 4:00 p.m.
Peter deGroot

Peter deGroot

Tamara Hynd/Nelson Star

Armed suspect Peter DeGroot is dead after what RCMP describe as an “interaction” with an emergency response team in a cabin near Slocan on Monday afternoon, Oct. 13.

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of BC is now investigating the incident. The IIO confirmed in an online statement that DeGroot “sustained a gunshot injury during an interaction…In addition, a firearm was found at the scene.”

The BC Coroners Service confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that they are investigating DeGroot’s death and that he died following a police shooting after an encounter with two members of the ERT team at approximately 1:45 p.m. on October 13. He was declared deceased at the scene.

The IIO investigation was in its early stages as of press time Tuesday and investigators are expected to be in the area most of the week.

IIO resources include a team director, three investigators and a forensic specialist. In additions to this, the IIO will provide dedicated services to assist the family of the deceased affected person.

Now that the IIO are investigating, the RCMP are prohibited from making any public statements about the case.

After the incident, relative Theodore DeGroot contacted the Star and offered more details about the suspect.

“I grew up with Peter (in Orillia, Ont.). He was an intelligent, friendly, loyal person. He was funny, quick to laugh, and he always saw positive things in bad situations. This is not sentimentality, I’m describing the person we wish to remember. Peter was a normal, healthy young man when we left high school.

“Peter suffered some form of aneurysm approximately 20 years ago. After that, his mental state began to deteriorate. As he visited over the years, he began to act more agitated when we talked. Peter began verbally lashing out against specific people. When he developed a paranoid obsession with me, I began receiving threats, and disturbing communications. I reported them to the (Ontario Provincial Police) and the RCMP in BC. I hoped he would get help, but heard nothing further.

“In frustration, I told an OPP officer, if Peter did not receive treatment, I literally expected to turn on the television and find him in the sort of situation which happened in Slocan. It was not a flippant remark, but a serious expression of my deep concern for Peter’s safety.”

The incident began on Thursday when Slocan Lake RCMP responded to a dispute between two individuals on Slocan West Road near Gravel Pit Road. While on scene, DeGroot allegedly fired upon police with a rifle before retreating into the surrounding forest. No members of the public nor RCMP officers were injured.

Police searched for DeGroot, 45, for five days. They considered the suspect to be armed and dangerous and locked down the area. Residents were told to stay inside their homes with doors locked. They also limited access to the village.

The RCMP initially used Gravel Pit Road as a staging area as they set up a command post with more than 25 members including a containment team dressed in camouflage. Plainclothes police wore their bullet proof vests and an ambulance was on stand-by along with more than 10 marked and unmarked vehicles. An RCMP helicopter out of Kelowna was in the area. The RCMP also interviewed residents.

While residents weren’t allowed to enter the area, many parked their vehicles at pullouts north of town and made the short walk through the forest to their homes as dusk fell on Thursday evening.

The local school was locked down with students, teachers and a few parents inside while the RCMP responded to the call.

By Friday RCMP had set up a 10 by 10 hectare containment area on the west side of the river where they concentrated their search efforts. Homes in that area were evacuated. Additional resources including air support, the Southeast District emergency response team, crisis negotiator, police dogs and tactical armoured vehicle were deployed to the scene on Thursday and Friday.

Both W.E. Graham and Winlaw schools were closed on Friday.

Two members of the emergency response team team were involved in the altercation which led to DeGroot’s death. The IIO has not estimated how long it will take to complete their investigation.

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