Politics

Police chief says 'miscommunication by a federal agency ' to blame for 'extra fear' after Ottawa shooting

Peter Sloly, Ottawa's police chief, says an alert issued by the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) warning government employees about an "active shooter" after a deadly crime in a downtown neighbourhood Wednesday resulted in "extra fear" and "uncertainty."

'There was an unfortunate miscommunication by a federal agency around the nature of the crime,' Sloly says

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said the Parliamentary Protective Service issued an "unfortunate miscommunication" Wednesday in the aftermath of a shooting in a downtown neighbourhood. The PPS warned government employees there was an "active shooter" situation underway. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Peter Sloly, Ottawa's police chief, says an alert issued by the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) warning government employees about an "active shooter" after a deadly crime in a downtown neighbourhood Wednesday resulted in "extra fear" and "uncertainty."

Police were called to a Gilmour Street home — just a kilometre from Parliament Hill — around 7:30 a.m. on a report of shots fired. There, police found one dead and three injured.

At 8:04 a.m., the PPS sent a message warning people who work on Parliament Hill that they should "be vigilant. Shooter still at large. Active shooter near Gilmore [sic] St and Kent St."

The message was distributed widely after former Conservative MP Tony Clement tweeted a screen grab of the PPS message to his more than 73,000 followers, and relayed the force's warning of an active shooter near Parliament Hill.

That message was received by hundreds of people who work in the parliamentary precinct. Shortly after it was sent, an Ottawa police officer at the scene of the crime told reporters they believed it was not an "active shooter" situation at all but rather a "targeted shooting." The location was secured not long after Ottawa police arrived on scene.

That assessment was later confirmed by Ottawa Police Service Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal, who said the people at the address "were known to each other" and were not the victims of a random attack.

"There was an unfortunate miscommunication by a federal agency around the nature of the crime which added extra fear and uncertainty," Sloly said in an interview with CBC Ottawa.

"We've tried to mitigate and manage that as best as we can and we will prevent it in the future. But again, it just added another layer of uncertainty and alarm to an already large-scale incident," Sloly said.

The term active shooter is typically reserved for a person who is killing or attempting to kill people in an area where they gather, such as a school or a workplace.

The victims of this shooting were confined to the Gilmour Street residence, which was being rented on the Airbnb platform.

As of 5:15 p.m. Thursday, the shooter had not yet been apprehended.

When asked about Sloly's comments on the security alert issued Wednesday, a spokesperson for the PPS said its advisory was "intended for employees and not for broad circulation."

"A shooting that takes place in proximity to the parliamentary precinct, involving an armed individual whose motives, location or next moves are unknown, will activate an increased security posture on the part of PPS," Sonia Vani said in a statement.

"The PPS issued an emergency notification to parliamentarians and parliamentary employees at 8:04 a.m. which described the situation based on the information we had at the time.

"At 8:40 a.m., a second message was sent, through the same system, updating the status of the incident."

The PPS was created in the aftermath of the Oct. 22, 2014 shootings on Parliament Hill in response to critics who said the various security agencies charged with protecting parliamentarians and visitors did not adequately communicate with one another that day.

The then-separate House of Commons and Senate security personnel, alongside some RCMP members, were amalgamated into one unified force to ensure better coordination. Now, roughly 600 personnel work for the PPS.

About the Author

John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

With files from the CBC's Julie Ireton

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