Suspect in custody following police stakeout

Josh Pennell
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Incident ends after shot fired and vehicle torched

A suspect is in custody following an action-filled couple of hours in St. John’s Tuesday night that resulted in both a shot being fired by an RNC officer and a getaway vehicle being torched.

Around 7 p.m., plainclothes RNC officers were conducting surveillance in the Field House parking lot at Memorial University when they witnessed someone breaking into cars in the parking lot. When they attempted to make an arrest, the suspect jumped into an SUV to escape.

RNC Chief of Police Robert Johnston said the suspect’s actions behind the wheel made the officers feel threatened.

“Our officers at one point felt threatened and a shot was fired,”  Johnston said at a news conference following the incident.

The chief said there was reason to believe the shot fired hit the vehicle as it fled the scene.

An officer received minor injur­ies as the vehicle sped away, but did not require medical attention.

The SUV was found on fire a short time later on Keane Place and was reportedly still burning as the chief spoke to the media.

Students who were inside the MUN Field House at the time of the shooting were not allowed to leave for several hours as police continued their investigation outside. Police cruisers had the parking lot barred off and were not letting cars down Westerland Road.

John Ozon was running in the Field House when the incident took place.

He didn’t see anything, but spoke to other people who were kept inside the facility as well until police let them out.

“We knew there was something on the go because there was a plainclothed policeman. You could see his handcuffs. He was on the side of the building. When someone gave him the signal he ran around the corner,” Ozon said the other witnesses told him.

Johnston said the RNC has received complaints of thefts from vehicles around the city.

“In some cases we’re setting up surveillance around individuals that we believe may be involved in criminal activity,” he said.

Following the 9:45 p.m. news conference with the police chief, there were reports of police having a suspect surrounded in the area of Rotary Drive. Shortly after 11 p.m., it was confirmed the suspect was in custody.

Johnston said at the news conference prior to the suspect being caught that they were looking for one person — presumably the person now in custody — but added it was too early in the investigation to say there was definitely only one person involved.

There is a second ongoing investigation. Johnston called in the RCMP to investigate the actions of the RNC officers that led to the shot being fired.

Organizations: Field House, RCMP

Geographic location: Keane Place, Westerland Road

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Recent comments

  • Unproud Newfoundlander
    February 19, 2014 - 14:41

    So let me get this straight. The RNC had a surveillance operation happening, but... 1. There's no video tape of what was going on 2. Despite having a surveillance operation happening, the RNC were not able to chase down an SUV? Don't we pay extra to give them fast cars? 3. The shot was fired for seemingly no reason in an area replete with people. Brilliant.

  • Proud Newfoudlander
    February 19, 2014 - 12:58

    I suggest we all march down to the courthouse with pitchforks and torches! That'll show em' we're not a bunch of hicks!

  • Since when did so many NL'ers complain?
    February 19, 2014 - 12:33

    Just a few points I would like to highlight after reading this article and its comments: -The RNC claim they shot fire after the driver steered the SUV toward the officer. By shooting at the vehicle, the officer scared the thief and caused him to change his plans. It forced the thief to realize that the officers will take all necessary actions to stop him from committing crimes. The thief panicked and his confidence was taken off guard. -The majority of people are complaining that the officer shot fire at the vehicle. Let's take a moment and think about what could have happened if the shot was not fired. Newfoundland could have potentially lost an officer; someones child, sibling, partner, significant other, someones parent and friend. I can't imagine how you would bash the RNC for not shooting their weapon and the officer being ran over by the SUV. So, instead of judging the RNC for protecting themselves (not to mention his partner(s) and our town), let's be thankful that no one got hurt and it led the RNC to arresting the suspect. -A change in perspective, now- the suspect. If anyone has any sense on how crimes work, you would realize that the criminal is more than likely to start their criminal activity small and then increase the currency and intensity. One is less likely to begin serial killing without already having a criminal record. Therefore, by catching this criminal the RNC have avoided allowing another criminal into the province. Who knows, we give this person a few months- they lose their "high" after breaking into cars (or they are only finding items not valuable to them). Next thing you know, you're at the bank trying to get some cash out and it gets held up. The same man who stole from your vehicle months ago has just held a gun to your head and demanded cash. Its just one step at a time until the person who just broke into cars for some "change" is breaking into homes, stores, and banks. So. Join me in thanking the RNC for being able to do a job I wouldn't be able to handle. Thank the RNC for risking their life, protecting our town and getting one more criminal off the streets. I personally would never be able to handle the stress of being a police officer, but I appreciate every single person associated with the RNC/RCMP in keeping our province safe.

  • Homely Sherlock
    February 19, 2014 - 11:44

    Once the courts and media identify this pillar of society, he'll no doubt be familiar to anyone who watches the news or the court docket. He'll likely be known to police and the courts; in breach of conditions and probation; have a record the length of your arm; and, owe thousands in fines. But, alas, the charade will continue and he'll be up to his shenanigans again in no time.

  • W Bagg
    February 19, 2014 - 09:40

    firing a shot for a guy stealing change from cars. Wow

    • Calvin
      February 19, 2014 - 10:17

      Stealing student's laptops and other electronics, book bags full of text books, gym bags full of clothes, and whatever else they leave in their vehicle. Firing a shot at a suspect for attempting to run over a police officer while driving an SUV. Get a clue Bagg. Thieves are some of the worst perpetrators out there, nice to see our boys in blue trying to stop them.

    • Affected
      February 19, 2014 - 10:32

      These people are not just "stealing change from cars". My car was broken in to in this area recently. My window was smashed and I lost more than just change. While I fully accept responsibility for leaving something of value in my vehicle it has become a significant problem. Several other vehicles were broken into on the same night and other valuables stolen. Glad to see the RNC trying to do something.

  • CSI NL
    February 19, 2014 - 08:32

    Should have no trouble getting DNA sample from burnt turd in driver's seat of SUV; did you see the bullet hole in driver's side window?

  • Proud Newfoundlander
    February 19, 2014 - 08:20

    If only the police could shoot all suspects, it would free up our courts, lawyers, and the prisons and only the bleeding hearts and artists would complain.

    • D.B.
      February 19, 2014 - 09:23

      I'm an artist, Proud Newfoundlander, and I definitely wouldn't complain. Nothing else seems to be deterring the crime and general skeetiness of this city...why waste time and resources with a trial and a not-bloody-likely prison term? If the criminals saw that they wouldn't get off so lightly, they may not be so eager to take what others work so hard for.

    • Proud Newfoundlander
      February 19, 2014 - 11:34

      An artist? How touchy feely. Get a real job and pay your taxes.

    • Proud Newfoundlander
      February 19, 2014 - 11:36

      An artist? How touchy feely. Get a real job and stop hugging trees you birkenstock wearing hippy.

    • To Proud NL'er
      February 19, 2014 - 14:17

      You must work at Winners! You most definitely are one (hint of sarcasm).

    • D.B.
      February 19, 2014 - 15:14

      Hah, I guess it goes to show Proud Newfoundlander's I.Q. level in that he/she doesn't even realize I was agreeing with them. They read as far as me stating I was an artist and probably got deterred by the difficult words..."sum stunned by', wha'?" That better, PN?

  • Robo Cop
    February 19, 2014 - 07:58

    My recommendation would be to offer more shooting accuracy training to RNC officers.

  • D.
    February 19, 2014 - 07:40

    How about the drive-by shooting and firebombing by criminal organizations that have moved to the city? Any progress there? Stopping the ongoing break-ins is appreciated, but there are badder bad guys out there and we have yet to here any update in those two incidents.

  • Gekko
    February 19, 2014 - 07:30

    Would like to hear more info on why this officer decided it was necessary to fire his weapon in the middle of a busy neighborhood. Did he really expect his pea-shooter to stop a vehicle the size of a battle tank? Or did he think himself good enough a marksman to actually hit the thief (!) in the driver's seat (which brings up it's own set of questions). This area is full of pedestrians and other drivers, at worst someone could have been killed by a stray bullet, at best having gunshots going off would just aggravate the situation, cause panic, and make everyone less safe. The boys in blue around here don't get to use their trigger fingers much, maybe this guy was itching.

    • Breslauer
      February 19, 2014 - 09:09

      Gecco, it's on account of bleeding hearts like you that our Justice System is in such a mess, you're probably a "Tree hugger" too.

    • Proud Newfoundlander
      February 19, 2014 - 10:25

      Agreed. The bleeding hearts should be lined up against a wall with the artists, tree huggers, social workers, trade unionists, scientists, poor, unemployed, educated....

  • original townie
    February 19, 2014 - 07:08

    Too bad the officer missed and hit the vehicle instead. It's time the law / justice system made our city safe again. It is totally out of control

    • Agreement
      February 19, 2014 - 10:05

      I totally agree, the criminals are totally out of control everywhere!!!

    • sparky
      February 19, 2014 - 11:15

      Things will get worse until our courts start giving proper sentences, the lawyers are making a BUNDLE OF MONEY from those Goofs! The Canadian taxpayer is paying for all this CRAP.

    • yo mama
      February 21, 2014 - 15:55

      My kinda folks....