Arrests made after organized crime investigation involving car chase, crash
The RCMP's federal serious and organized crime section is leading the investigation
A number of people are in custody after RCMP searched 13 sites across Halifax as part of a federal investigation that included a dramatic car chase in the city on Wednesday afternoon.
Few details about the case were made public until Thursday afternoon, when the RCMP said they seized what they believe to be cocaine and other drugs, as well as firearms, as a result of those searches.
While some people were in custody, no charges have been laid, according to a news release. The release didn't reveal further details about the 13 sites.
Videos on social media show a car leaving the Highway 102 off-ramp and driving over grass with multiple unmarked police SUVs and trucks in pursuit shortly after 3 p.m. AT. Tracks were still visible Thursday morning.
The vehicle then crossed over the busy Joseph Howe Drive, with police right behind it, and made its way onto Elliott Street.
Sharon Simpson, who lives on Elliott Street, came to her door on Wednesday afternoon after hearing a loud bang. She saw an airborne car coming over the hill of her dead-end road, with several black SUVs in pursuit, and even more vehicles following.
"It was very surreal to watch. It took me a minute for my eyes to really compute what I was seeing," Simpson said.
She said two SUVs pinned the car in an attempt to stop it, and they all ended up landing on a power pole. Simpson saw two people arrested who had been in the car, and she saw an officer with a handgun in a plastic bag.
The entire chase across multiple lanes and up over curbs was a dangerous situation, Simpson said.
"There were people up on the sidewalk who were very lucky. They could have easily been taken out by any of those vehicles," Simpson said Thursday.
The power pole was broken, and was replaced by Thursday morning.
On Thursday, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau told CBC Radio's Mainstreet that Wednesday's occurrences were part of an ongoing long-term RCMP investigation.
The Nova Scotia RCMP's federal serious and organized crime section is leading the investigation, Croteau said.
Croteau said the Mounties would release more information on the investigation, and whether charges are laid, when available. She said there was no risk to public safety and there was "extensive planning" that went into the operation.
"Any investigation is fluid, and we can't control every situation, so we do our best," she said. "We try to ensure public and officer safety, and if we believe the risk is great we have the option to stop that at the time, but everything is assessed as it's going on."
She said the police vehicles left the road because the officers were "reporting to the scene as quickly as possible in order to provide backup to the officers that were there."
She said a loaded firearm and drugs were seized as a result of the traffic stop.
Croteau said the RCMP is continuing to search other sites Thursday, but she couldn't provide specifics on other locations.
Raid near high school
Also Wednesday afternoon, police officers raided an apartment building in Bedford just as a nearby high school began letting out.
Anita Kirkbride picked up her daughter at Charles P. Allen High School around 3:25 p.m. to take her to a piano lesson. Soon after she turned on Innovation Drive, she had to pull over to let a fire truck through.
"It's a very crowded street, there's barely enough room for the fire truck to come through," said Kirkbride.
Teachers outside the school directing traffic appeared to be "kind of holding students back a little," she said.
Kirkbride's daughter's piano lesson happened to be in a building next to the one being raided on Innovation Drive. As she pulled into the parking lot, she noticed the fire truck there with many people from the apartment building standing outside.
At the time she assumed there was a fire, but she later learned there were also a number of unmarked police vehicles at the scene.
Kirkbride said she's concerned by the fact that a raid happened with hundreds of students nearby.
"I just can't believe, knowing what was going on now, that they wouldn't do a hold and secure," she said. "I don't know what they thought might happen, but there shouldn't have been people walking around like they were."
In an email, Doug Hadley, spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, said the RCMP informed the school of their operations after students were dismissed for the day.
Man arrested in Hammonds Plains
Around the same time as the car chase in Halifax, people in Hammonds Plains also saw police roll into the area.
Dan Goodine, who owns Focused Motorsports on Byblos Road just off Old Annapolis Road, said multiple unmarked SUVs went up the driveway adjacent to his own Wednesday afternoon and his neighbour was arrested.
"That guy had his wife and a couple children. Kind of got up and went to work every day, so it's not something that you would really expect," said Goodine.
Halifax district Fire Chief Dave Slaunwhite said a decontamination team was on standby in the same area Thursday morning, waiting for RCMP to bring in their own team.
Halifax Regional Police confirmed in an email Wednesday evening the police deployment was an RCMP operation, even though the area is usually covered by Halifax city police.
The RCMP's emergency response team was also involved, said HRP.
Const. John MacLeod of the Halifax Regional Police said "select officials" within the force were told the operation was going to take place at an undetermined time.
"However, as can often be the case with sensitive federal investigations and operations, HRP were not provided any specific details or locations within our jurisdiction," MacLeod said Thursday in a release.
MacLeod said it was expected that any public communication on the operation would be the responsibility of the RCMP.
With files from Paul Palmeter, Alex Cooke and Mainstreet