Man charged with 5 counts of attempted murder after RCMP shootout in Merritt
A suspect has been charged with five counts of attempted murder following a police shootout in B.C.'s Nicola Valley that left a young child injured over the weekend.
Gerald Hartley Cooper is facing those charges and one count of fleeing from police in connection with the dramatic incident that played out on Sunday afternoon in Merritt.
The 46-year-old suspect remains in police custody and is scheduled to appear in Kamloops provincial court on Wednesday.
The RCMP said it would not be providing any further information, as the case is now before the courts and the shootout has triggered an investigation by B.C.'s police watchdog.
Authorities previously said the incident began when officers tried to stop a Ford F-350 pickup as part of an investigation into stolen property. The driver allegedly fled, and later continued trying to evade police even after driving over a spike belt.
The F-350 eventually came to a stop on Highway 8, near Snake Road. In a news release on Sunday, the RCMP said gunshots were exchanged between the suspect and police "throughout the incident."
A man and his 11-year-old son, who are both believed to have been inside the pickup, were injured. The Independent Investigations Office, which is working to determine whether police actions contributed to the injuries, said the father suffered at least one gunshot wound.
The child was also seriously hurt, but he was seen walking towards police with hands raised after the shootout ended. The IIO said it's unclear what caused the boy's injuries.
One witness told CTV News he was visiting family in Merritt when the shots rang out on Sunday. Kelly Prosper, who was with his three young children, said he heard a flurry of gunfire that lasted minutes.
"We hit the ground. There were bullets flying everywhere," he said. "I didn't know what to do. I ran and grabbed my kids and put them inside. My other son was in the field because he hid behind a tractor."
Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, spokesperson for the B.C. RCMP, said the officers involved in the incident are "taking the necessary time off," as is standard after shooting incidents.
"Prior to returning to regular duties their overall well-being will be assessed to ensure they are in the best position to do so. The RCMP will continue to support them throughout this process," Shoihet said in an email.
The Independent Investigations Office asked anyone with information on what happened to call its witness tip line at 1-855-446-8477.