Calgary

Staff member, clients shot with paintballs at Lethbridge supervised consumption site

Lethbridge's mayor is calling for peaceful debate around the city's supervised consumption site.

Assault comes after contentious debate, protest over harm-reduction facility

Lethbridge police released this surveillance image of the truck involved in the paintball shooting on Saturday. A suspect was arrested the next day. (Lethbridge Police Service)

Someone in a moving pick-up truck shot paintballs at people outside of a southern Alberta supervised consumption site early Saturday.

The incident, which police are investigating as an assault, prompted the mayor of Lethbidge to condemn the violence.

Just after midnight, a white truck drove past the ARCHES consumption site, at 1016 1 Ave. South, according to Lethbridge Police Service. Someone in the truck is believed to have fired multiple paintballs at several people outside of the site.

Police would not say if the victims were clients of the site or employees, but did say ARCHES was open at the time. 

Jill Manning, the director of operations with the group that runs the site, says a staff member was hit multiple times in the throat, chest, torso and leg, causing bruising and cuts.

Two clients were also hit, although Manning says no one was seriously injured.

'Respect democracy, but condemn violent acts'

Police issued a statement Saturday afternoon that included comments from Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman, who called for peaceful debate around how to help people with addictions.

"Recently, the issue of harm reduction has caused debate and been divisive in our community. Peaceful protest and freedom of speech are cornerstones of our society," Spearman said in the emailed release.

"We as city council respect democracy, but condemn violent acts against anyone at ARCHES. These people are residents in our community who are simply doing their jobs. There is no place for violence in our community."

Jason Luan, the associate minister of mental health and addictions, also condemned the attack in a tweet.

Contentious week of protest

The incident comes after a contentious week of debate around the site.

On Aug. 19, council voted down a motion that would have asked the province to halt funding for ARCHES — the city's only consumption site and one of the busiest in North America. Hundreds protested in front of city hall in advance of the vote.

Manning says there have been several incidents since that meeting where the facility's staff have been threatened, both in person and online.

Between Feb. 28, 2018, and July 30, 2019, the site had more than 260,000 visits and responded to more than 2,500 medical emergencies.

The site also provides addiction counselling, housing supports and nursing services.

Seeking tips about white truck

Police said ARCHES was the only location targeted that they know of, and noted that the assault is under investigation.

The truck is described as a white, newer model Dodge Ram Quad cab, with a hard top box cover, black rims and a "RAM" emblem across the back tailgate. Due to distance and speed, police were unable to obtain the truck's licence plate.

Police are asking anyone who witnessed the assault, recognizes the vehicle or has other information about the incident to call 403-328-4444 or contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477 and calgarycrimestoppers.org.

With a file from the Canadian Press

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