British Columbia·Video

Harrison Lake campers say they were run off campsite by partying group who made veiled death threats

People hoping to camp on Crown land near Harrison Lake, B.C., last weekend say a group of partying campers ran them off the campsite and made thinly veiled death threats, warning them they could be shot if they didn't leave.

RCMP say they're investigating but that it 'does not appear' the group had firearms

Samantha Ruttan posted these photos on social media of some of the campers she says ran her and her friends and another family off a Crown land campsite near Harrison Lake, east of Vancouver, last weekend. (Submitted by Samantha Ruttan)

People hoping to camp on Crown land near Harrison Lake, B.C., last weekend say a group of partying campers ran them off the campsite and made thinly veiled death threats against them. 

Last Friday, the Helmer family of Port Coquitlam pitched a tent at a campsite along the Harrison West Forest Service Road about 215 kilometres east of Vancouver. To get to the site, they had to drive around a black truck that was parked diagonally, blocking easy access to a number of vacant campsites. 

While eating lunch with their pre-teen son, Kim and Shawn Helmer said a woman arrived and told them to "Get the f--k out," claiming the campsites were reserved for friends who had yet to arrive. 

The woman was part of a group of campers that included one other woman and four men.

WATCH | Woman harassed while trying to grab camping spot:

Camping confrontation leads to alleged intimidation and veiled threats

CBC News BC

2 months ago
0:52
People wanting to use vacant campsites along the Harrison West Forest Service Road over the May long weekend say they were subjected to intimidation and veiled threats. 0:52

"I said, You can't reserve a non-reserving campsite,' " Kim Helmer said. 

Her partner said the woman told them the area was reserved for eight to 10 people who were coming up with their party supplies and that "they were probably armed."

"[She said] if they saw us in that area, they would eliminate us — take us out. And she goes, 'I wouldn't stop them,' " Shawn Helmer said.

Campers felt threatened

Another camper, Samantha Ruttan of Chilliwack, said she was subjected to the same threats when she and two friends arrived at the site later that afternoon.

"I got out of the truck … they were screaming at me and swearing at me to get the eff out," she said. "I stood up to the bullies and did scream back at them to shut up and leave me alone."

Ruttan said she went to speak to the Helmers, who by that time had decided to leave.

"Our son was pretty upset. He was visibly shaking and crying," said Shawn Helmer. "They made it very clear that if we stayed, we would probably be killed, that's what I felt."

Ruttan said that as she was talking to the Helmers, a man came up to her. 

"He was one inch from my face screaming that they had eight other people coming with shotguns and that they were going to be shooting off their guns in our direction, and if they hit us, then that's our own fault. We had been warned."

Ruttan said the group warned her and two friends that other people were coming to the campsite with shotguns and that they could be shot. She reported the confrontation to the RCMP, who told CBC News they are investigating but that it did not appear the group of campers had firearms. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Ruttan posted images of the individuals on social media, photographed their licence plates and captured some of the altercation on video.

In one video, a man is heard saying to Ruttan, "We're going to put our f--king campfire right in the middle of this place, and we're going to make sure you have a miserable weekend."

In another video, a different man repeatedly tells her to "Get the f--k out."

RCMP say campers did not appear to have weapons

Ruttan said she and her friends were intimidated.

"They were just screaming at us, calling us names," she said. "One of the individuals took off his sweater and said, 'I don't want to go back to jail, but I'm going to kill someone." 

On Sunday, Ruttan contacted the RCMP in Agassiz, the closest town to Harrison Lake, but said that the two officers she spoke to did not seem interested in following up. 

"They just said that it was a 'he said, she said' situation and that they would not go forward with the case," she said. 

However, on Wednesday afternoon, Upper Fraser Valley RCMP released a statement saying the Agassiz RCMP was continuing to conduct a thorough investigation into the accusations and into the statements posted on social media.

"At this time, it does not appear the group of campers were in possession of firearms, and there is currently no evidence to suggest the incident was racially motivated," it said.

The Helmers said they also contacted the Agassiz RCMP to report the altercation but had not received a call back as of Wednesday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karin Larsen

@CBCLarsen

Karin Larsen is a former Olympian and award winning sports broadcaster who covers news and sports for CBC Vancouver.

With files from Isabelle Raghem

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