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Man shot dead by OPP after mask dispute has been estranged from his family for decades

The 73-year-old man shot to death by Ontario Provincial Police officers in Haliburton Wednesday morning has been estranged from his family for decades, CBC News has learned.

Neighbours paint a picture of a reclusive figure who was sometimes even hostile

Police were called to this Valu-Mart grocery store in Minden, Ont., shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday, July 15, after a man allegedly refused to wear a mask and allegedly assaulted a store employee. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

The 73-year-old man shot to death by Ontario Provincial Police officers in Haliburton Wednesday morning has been estranged from his family for decades, CBC News has learned.

Police shot the man during a standoff at his home, after he allegedly assaulted supermarket staff in Minden during a dispute in which he refused to wear a mask in the store.

CBC News was able to locate and speak to some of his relatives in the GTA, who say he became estranged from the family about 30 years ago and had refused to attend family functions since. Their comments come as his neighbours continue to paint a picture of a reclusive figure who was sometimes even hostile.

The relatives say they had no idea where he had been living, adding they were surprised to learn he was in the Haliburton area where he was shot Wednesday morning.

CBC News has confirmed the man's identity and that he lived at the address where the confrontation with police took place, but will not publish his identity, or that of his relatives, until the province's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) releases his name.

'No one ever knew him' 

One neighbour recounted being rebuffed when he offered the man a ride after finding him walking on the road in the middle of winter.

"We bumped into each other a couple of times … he'd be walking on the side of the road. He was the kind of guy who'd tell you to take a hike," Gary Barnett told CBC News on Friday.

"No one ever knew him, he just kept strictly to himself. No one could known him, he was a loner."

Gary Barnett said his neighbour was the kind of guy who’d tell you to take a hike. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Another neighbour told CBC News the man lived in the area for several years but didn't seem to have any friends.

"He was a very reclusive man. He's been here, I'd say, between eight to 10 years," Garfield Munshaw told CBC News on Thursday. 

"He built a big new house, will not have nothing to do with anybody … He won't even speak. He's just very much to himself, doesn't want anybody around, you know. He had big no trespassing signs.

"He's a strange, strange man," he added.

Man allegedly assaulted staff at Valu-Mart in Minden

On the day of the shooting the man allegedly assaulted staff at a Valu-Mart in Minden, Ont., after refusing to wear a mask inside the store. Police say he then fled the store, striking several vehicles as he raced away.

Police were called just after 8 a.m. on Wednesday, OPP Sgt. Jason Folz said.

Officers spotted the man's car and tried to stop it, but they refrained "in the interest of public safety" before doing a follow-up investigation, Folz said.

OPP/SIU markers outside the home of Minden Valu-Mart suspect, in Halliburton county. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

According to the SIU, the man drove away, and an officer saw the car and started following it for a short while. Based on the licence plate, officers made their way to a home on Indian Point Road.

Outside the home there was an "interaction," and two police officers fired their guns, the SIU said.

Folz said that after shots were fired, "additional resources" were brought to the area near Eagle Lake, by the village of Haliburton, about 215 kilometres northeast of Toronto.

The man was shot and taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:47 a.m., the SIU said.

Folz said the victim was from the Eagle Lake area.

CBC has confirmed who lives at the location and he's the person family says they haven't seen in years.

On the map for the wrong reason

The neighbours who spoke with CBC News also confirmed the man's identity. They said Wednesday's incident has shone a spotlight in the usually quiet neighbourhood.

"It puts us on the map for the wrong reason," Barnett said.

"Haliburton is a great place, It's a super quiet cottage country, It's a great place to live. This is a shock. We never have this type of thing."

OPP/SIU markers outside the home of Minden Valu-Mart suspect, in Halliburton county. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Meanwhile, Munshaw described the area as "very quiet," adding that everybody has big acreages.

"It's a quiet place and everybody's ... like a family ...  Everybody's there to help everybody else and that's the way we are. Most of us are retired down here too," he said.

Munshaw said the peace and tranquility was disturbed by the sound of gunshots.

"I heard a couple high-powered gunshots. My grandson lives with me for the summer ... and he said, 'Boy, they were high-powered rifles, Pa,'" Munshaw explained.

The SIU said investigators had recovered a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle from the scene. The firearms of two police officers were also taken into evidence, the agency said.

Four OPP officers have been designated witnesses to the shooting, and arrangements for interviews are underway, the SIU said.

With files from John Lancaster

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