Police say the actions of a 26-year-old St. John's man forced an RNC officer to fire his weapon Tuesday night on the campus of Memorial University in St. John's.
Justin Michael Chipman was formally charged Wednesday afternoon with 14 counts including assault with a weapon, assaulting a peace officer, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, theft, possession of stolen property and property damage.
The incident occurred in the parking lot of MUN's Field House on Westerland Road around 7 p.m. Tuesday, triggering an immediate response from more than half a dozen marked police cars. Amid the confusion, students were kept inside the sports complex until police were confident there was no risk to the public.
Police say plainclothes officers were conducting surveillance in the parking lot when one of them tried to arrest a man who was allegedly breaking into cars.
The suspect ran, got into a stolen SUV, and tried to speed away. That, said the RNC, is when an officer fired his weapon. One officer also suffered minor injuries during the incident. A short time later the SUV was found burning on nearby Keane Place.
The RNC has since asked the RCMP to conduct an independent investigation into the discharge of the firearm by the on-duty member of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
"Our officers at one point felt threatened and a shot was fired from a service weapon belonging to one of our members," RNC Chief Robert Johnston told reporters late Tuesday night.
He refused to describe the details of the exchange, including exactly why officers felt threatened enough for one of them to use a weapon.
Hours after the burned car was found, police blocked off Rotary Drive, west of Columbus Drive. They later took a male suspect into custody.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the RCMP said the investigation is "in its initial stages."
The incident put students on edge
"I saw people trying to get into a SUV that was up on the bank of snow, and then another car had blocked it off," said a woman who witnessed the incident, but asked not to be identified.
"I pulled ahead a bit more and saw that police had their guns drawn. I didn't hear a gunshot but I did see a hole and the glass was broken in the driver's side of the vehicle."
Ashley Martin told CBC News that she and a friend were leaving the Field House shortly after the gunfire.
"There was yellow tape all over the place and there was RNC officers walking around," she said. "The guy that came to talk to us said they're just waiting for the forensics officer to look around or something for casings ... ."