RCMP are investigating whether the death of a Catholic priest is related to a terrifying series of incidents Friday that injured several police officers and left a suspect dead in St. Paul, Alberta.
RCMP have released the name of the suspect in the downtown shooting incident, 55-year-old John Carlos Quadros of St. Paul.
The Diocese of St. Paul says Father Gilbert Dasna, an associate pastor of the St. Paul Cathedral parish, was alone in the rectory when he was shot in the chest. The Diocese confirmed Dasna was shot more than once. He died on Friday, which marked the third anniversary of his arrival in Canada from his native country of Cameroon.
The Diocese of St. Paul said at a news conference Saturday afternoon that Dasna "died in his service as a priest to the people of St. Paul."
RCMP confirmed that the death of a Catholic priest is being investigated as a homicide. They are continuing to investigate the homicide to determine whether it was related to the events that resulted in the injury of three RCMP officers and the death of Quadros.
At present, RCMP say there is no evidence to suggest the killing of the priest was a random occurrence.
“Needless to say the whole community of St. Paul — not only the Catholic community but the whole community - is under shock at this tragic death,” said Pierre Lamoureux, a spokesperson for the Diocese of St. Paul. “Not only [at the loss of] Father Dasna, but at the loss of another life — the alleged assailant, the alleged attacker, of Father Dasna."
Lamoureux said the Diocese had no information on Dasna's alleged attackers, or any relation to the church. All other employees of the parish had gone home for the day.
Dasna was described as a "very warm, very loving man."
"He had a very easy way about him," said Lamoureux. "He was a good and faithful servant to the church and the people of St. Paul."
“The community is under shock because we are not used to this kind of violence,” he told CBC News. “We don’t expect this kind of violence on our streets.”
The chaotic scene unfolded in the town of 5,400 at about 6 p.m. MT Friday when officers heard gunshots outside the local RCMP detachment.
'I've seen movie scenes not as horrific as this.' - Chief Supt. Randy McInnes
Police saw a black Dodge pickup truck leaving the parking lot, and officers followed the truck as it sped towards the downtown core.
At that point, the driver of the truck seemed to intentionally ram a police cruiser, trapping an officer inside the vehicle. Police say that's when the man opened fire.
Chief Supt. Randy McInnes says the officers returned fire, killing the gunman.
"I've seen movie scenes not as horrific as this. There's bits of pieces of vehicle all over the street a half a block away," he said.
"I was shaken by it to the point where I couldn't properly text a message to my commanding officer to let them know what was going on."
McInnes says the female officer inside the police vehicle suffered serious leg injuries. A male officer was shot in the hand and another was hit in the face with flying glass. Both men were treated and released.
It's not clear if the death of Dasna and downtown shooting incidents are related, but police say the two scenes were within a few blocks of each other.
“At this point in time, I cannot tell you if there is any connection between the Dodge [incident] and the deceased that was found,” said McInnis.”Our investigative team is investigating that with forensics and it’s going to be a while before we can determine if there is any link between the two incidences.”
Police will not be divulging any new information until they have conducted the autopsies, which are scheduled for Tuesday May 13.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which is called in when the actions of a police officer result in serious injury or death, is investigating.
'It's never happened in St. Paul'
St. Paul Mayor Glenn Andersen said the incident was nothing short of "chaotic."
'I think that's going to take a lot of time to work through because it's not something we expect in our lives.' - St. Paul Mayor Glenn Andersen
"A town of our size, of 6,000 people, doesn't ever expect this to happen," he told CBC News. "It's never happened in St. Paul."
Andersen said emergency personnel in St. Paul are very close.
"The fireman who had to extricate the one RCMP member from the vehicle was very close to this person," he said. "Police are affected. Firemen are affected. Ambulance personnel are affected [as well as] any public members who were on the street at that time.
"People are going to have to go through some debriefings to understand the feelings they are feeling. I think that's going to take a lot of time to work through because it's not something we expect in our lives."
Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said the events in St. Paul are a reminder of the dangers faced by police.
"[On Friday] I was speaking at a crime prevention awards conference and one of my messages was that police officers face real and present dangers every day, they don't know what they're going to face and some of them tragically don't even come home," he said
"Little did I know that a couple hours after that that we would have three RCMP officers shot, we'd have a civilian dead and the alleged gunman dead."
"I'm just really shaken up by the whole incident," he said.
Denis extended his thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by the incident on behalf of Premier Dave Hancock and all Albertans.
St. Paul is about 150 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.