RCMP incident commander applauds officer who convinced La Loche, Sask., shooter to surrender
Officer located gunman in boys washroom and made arrest without further bloodshed
When a single RCMP officer sped to the main entrance of La Loche Community School in northern Saskatchewan after the shooting last January, four people were already dead and seven wounded.
Terrified students and staff huddled in their classrooms with the doors closed and lights off. Some had escaped and gathered in the parking lot.
The bravery that they showed and the courage going in there, that's second to none.- RCMP Insp. Teddy Munro
Backup was on the way, but there was no time to wait. The officer ran inside, past the front window sprayed with shotgun pellets. He wasn't sure how many shooters might be roaming the halls.
After conducting a search, he realized the gunman was hiding in the boys bathroom. When the perpetrator agreed to come out, the officer didn't know if the he'd emerge with his hands up or with his shotgun raised.
The 17-year-old emerged and surrendered without another shot fired.
The officer's entire search and arrest took less than 90 seconds.
Two other RCMP officers who arrived on the scene confirmed there were no more shooters. They brought in paramedics to care for the wounded and helped everyone out of the building into waiting school buses.
RCMP declined a request to speak with the officers in the school that day, citing the upcoming sentencing hearing for the youth.
Community in recovery
One of the worst mass killings in Canadian history, the La Loche shooting has devastated families, the school and the community.
The 17-year-old has pleaded guilty to four counts of murder and seven of attempted murder.
Since the shooting, a new friendship centre has opened. The school is again bustling with the sounds of lockers opening, basketballs bouncing and children laughing.
Nearly a year after the shooting, the RCMP incident commander from that day agreed to share these new details of the shooting, as well as about the massive police response.
RCMP Insp. Teddy Munro said he can't imagine the heartache and loss felt by everyone affected. At the same time, he said the officer's actions likely prevented further bloodshed.
"Those members did an amazing job. The bravery that they showed and the courage going in there, that's second to none. I commend each and every one of them for their actions and what they did," Munro said in an interview from the RCMP's F Division headquarters in Regina.
"How calm they stayed was amazing. I take my hat off to those guys every day."
Munro, who now commands RCMP operations in southern Saskatchewan, grew up with several RCMP uncles and other relatives in rural Manitoba. As an Indigenous officer in The Pas and Prince Albert, he was familiar with many of the issues facing people in places like La Loche. He'd overseen several murder investigations, and Munro and others had even received "large scale event training" just one week before the shooting.
But Munro had never seen anything like this.
It began with a call from an officer at the nearby Buffalo Narrows detachment.
"There's a school shooting. It's active," she said.
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Munro hopped in the passenger seat of a cruiser and was in constant contact with officers at the scene as they raced up from Prince Albert.
"It's almost surreal. You don't think these types of incidents would happen in northern Canada. You read about them and see them on TV in the U.S. and other parts of the world. It's almost, 'Is this happening?' It takes a few minutes to kick in that this is reality."
On arrival, Munro set up a command post and secured the two large crime scenes — the school and a nearby home.
"You're trying to find out who's all there. How many injuries? There's a lot of moving parts you're trying to get a grasp on."
Munro made sure the 90-plus RCMP officers who descended on La Loche had food and lodging. He co-ordinated the RCMP's connections with medical staff, local and national leaders and media. And he ensured that first responding officer and others in the school were treated for shock.
Most officers, including Munro, left La Loche several days later. Some stationed there have been transferred.
Munro said the responding officers are heroes, as are the paramedics, hospital staff and others. He said none will forget Jan. 22, 2016.
"It was a very traumatic event. Obviously, with anybody involved, from the citizens to students to teachers to the [RCMP] members, it's one of those things that will live with you for the rest of your life."