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.