British Columbia

Man dead after shots fired between suspect and officers near Vancouver's Commercial Drive: police

A man has died after shots were fired between a suspect and police officers in East Vancouver on Wednesday night, police say.

Officers were responding to an alleged assault in an apartment building, VPD says

Vancouver police officers and detectives with the Independent Investigations Office are pictured Thursday morning at the scene of a shooting involving police that happened the night before and left one person dead near Commercial Drive and East Fifth Avenue in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A man has died after shots were fired between a suspect and police officers in East Vancouver on Wednesday night, police say.

Officers responded shortly after 8:30 p.m. PT to reports of an alleged assault in an apartment building near Commercial Drive and East 5th Avenue, according to a release issued by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) early Thursday.

When they arrived, "there was an interaction that resulted in an exchange of gunfire," the release said.

Police say the suspect, a man in his 40s who lived in the area, died.

The nearby stretch of Commercial Drive, which has many bars, restaurants and shops, was closed Wednesday night while police swarmed the neighbourhood and witnesses reported hearing several shots ring out.

Police say they were responding to reports of an alleged assault in an apartment building Wednesday night before the shooting happened. Authorities are pictured here surveying the scene Thursday morning. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Robbie Unger, who lives in an apartment on East 5th Avenue, told CBC News he saw police standing outside his building Wednesday night with guns drawn, and then heard five shots. 

"They were pointing, but you don't expect them to shoot," said Unger on Thursday morning. 

He said after he heard the shots, police entered the building and escorted him outside. He said he has yet to be allowed back in.

Nikhilesh Nayar, who also lives on 5th Avenue, says he saw police in the hallway of his apartment building when he opened the front door of his unit.

"Something in my body just told me maybe you should go outside and have a smoke and see what's going on," he said. 

After he went outside, he said he heard gunshots and saw flashes from the shots back inside the residence.

An ambulance was seen arriving at the scene just before 11 p.m.

One officer was hurt and taken to hospital but police said his injuries were not due to gunshot wounds and are not life threatening.

Police blocked off a portion of Commercial Drive on Wednesday night. (Liam Britten/CBC)

During a Thursday morning news conference, VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin confirmed officers evacuated units in the building, but she didn't say how many and couldn't specify when the occupants could return home.

"This was a very active situation," said Visintin.

Visintin said the reported assault happened inside the apartment building and she could not confirm who initially called police. She said she did not know if a negotiator was on the scene with police before the shooting began.

British Columbia's Independent Investigations Office (IIO) — the province's civilian-led police oversight agency — confirmed with CBC News on Thursday morning that it is investigating the shooting.

Commercial Drive had reopened by Thursday morning but a portion of East Fifth Avenue was still closed to traffic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Evan Downing was walking home on Commercial Drive just after 10 p.m. PT when he heard about six gunshots, he said.

"My heart's still going," he said. "I come from a small town so nothing like this ever happens."

Rachel Stout was at the corner of 4th Avenue and Commercial Drive when she, too, heard gunshots. 

"A lot of cops were on the scene right away," she said. 

Visintin did not confirm how many shots were fired or how many shots came from police weapons. She said the investigation is now solely in the IIO's hands and the VPD is no longer involved in the investigation.

Commercial Drive had reopened by Thursday morning, while a section of East 5th Avenue remained taped off.